The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) are rallying support from stakeholders and the public to help wage a war on tobacco smoking, as the harmful health impact of tobacco is killing hundreds of people annually.
According to the FDA, although the prevalence of tobacco smoking in the country reduced from 3.6 per cent in 2009 to 2.8 per cent in 2017, close to 500,000 people were still engaged in the practice.
The figure comprises 425,000 men, 69,000 women and 1,700 young boys.
The FDA figures further showed that about 75 men died from tobacco use in Ghana weekly, translating into 3,900 deaths annually and making tobacco one of the leading causes of death among men.
Against the backdrop of the harmful health impact of tobacco, stakeholders who gathered at a forum to mark the World No Tobacco Day in Accra yesterday said, the time had come to take the bull by the horn and enforce the regulations on tobacco smoking.
World Tobacco Day
World Tobacco Day is marked across the world on May 31, every year to educate and sensitise the public to the harmful effects of tobacco and the need to support efforts to curb the menace.
This year’s event was marked on the theme: "Tobacco and Lung Health".
The stakeholders at the event included officials of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the country office of the World Health Organisation (WHO), representatives of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS).
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FDA, Ms Delese Mimi Darko, said although the authority had vigorously carried out a lot of sensitisation and education programmes to dissuade people from smoking tobacco, more needed to be done to stop the practice.
She noted that a major area of concern was the smoking of tobacco in public places and the increasing addiction to “shisha“ by the youth.
Ms Darko said the FDA, as a regulator, required the support of policy makers and other agencies to enforce compliance.
At his turn, the Country Director of WHO, Dr Owen Kaluwa, said the tobacco epidemic had become one of the biggest public health threats for the world.
"Tobacco smoking is dangerous because it contains 69 chemicals which are known to cause cancer and evidently, smoking is known to be the primary cause of lung cancer, accounting for two-thirds of lung cancer deaths.
For instance, in 2018 alone, 39,000 lung cancer cases were diagnosed in Africa and close to 38,000 deaths occurred," he said.
He commended Ghana for making strides in implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Dr Kaluwa commended the FDA, the MoH and other stakeholders for the efforts being made to control the smoking of tobacco, especially the introduction of graphic health warnings on tobacco products.
He, however, called on the MoH to fully implement the provisions of the WHO, FCTC to deal with the menace.
"I urge the government to adopt and enforce tobacco control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco including promoting tobacco cessation and adequately treating tobacco dependence," he said.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, said Ghana had made significant improvement in the implementation of the FCTC by adopting comprehensive smoke-free policies, especially the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851) and the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (L.I224).
He urged all institutions, groups and individuals to support the efforts being made to reduce the smoking of tobacco.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Dr Kwabena Nuamah, said the increasing number of teenagers engaged in the smoking of “shisha” was worrying.
He said it was important for concerted efforts to be made to tackle the challenge head-on.