About 5,012 people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses, out of the 3.5 per cent of the adult population who smoke in the country, according to data from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction, an NGO.
The Executive Director of Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana, Samuel Cudjoe Hanu, who disclosed this at a press conference in Accra yesterday[May 30, 2022], therefore, called for increased education on the health implications of tobacco smoking and the need for tobacco harm reduction programmes to be made an integral part of Ghana's public health system for healthier lives.
The press conference formed part of activities commemorating the 2022 World Vape Day, which was observed in Accra yesterday, and the World No Tobacco Day, which is being commemorated today.
The World Health Organisation established World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable deaths and the diseases it causes.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is: “Protect the environment”.
Tobacco health reduction
Tobacco health reduction is a public health strategy to lower the risk tobacco products pose to individuals and the wider society.
Mr Hanu said cigarette smoking was considered deadly because of the toxic mix of chemicals in smoke from the combustion of tobacco.
“We do not believe that there is ever going to be a drug-free society. There are some who cannot quit smoking cigarette, and for such people they should have options.
“Electronic nicotine delivery systems (EMDS), otherwise known as e-cigarette, is one of the harm reduction products which, when encouraged for use among smokers, will help them quit smoking or reduce the number of people who smoke,” he said.
He, therefore, advocated that instead of banning EMDS, the country should rather encourage people who smoked cigarettes to switch to EMDS.
“There have been concerns that because we do not know the long-term effect of EMDS, policymakers should ban them, but the WHO has described the system as 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes.
“Harm reduction products such as EMDS are effective ways to quit smoking. If you ban e-cigarettes, the chances of people going back to combustible smoking — cigarettes — are high, and that is dangerous,” he said.
Mr Hanu further entreated the authorities to provide the right information on e-cigarettes and other reduced risk products for the public to enable smokers to have the option of switching from combustible nicotine products such as cigarettes to non-combustibles and reduced-risk products such as EMDS.