The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), has warned the citizenry, especially the youth, to be wary of the illicit use of tobacco products, which is contributing negatively to health, legal, economic, governance issues and also leading to corruption.
“Illicit tobacco products hook young people because they are more affordable and misleading young tobacco users by not displaying health warnings.”
Mrs Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng, Head of Tobacco and Substances Abuse Department of FDA, gave the warning in an interview with the Ghana News Agency.
She explained that illicit trade was posing a serious threat not only in high-income countries, but throughout the world.
Citing some of the threats posed by the illicit trade, Mrs Boateng said tax revenue, which could have otherwise been spent on the provision of public services, was being directed into the “hands of criminals.”
She said illicit trade strengthened corruption and weakened good governance, while tobacco companies were using the identified loopholes in tobacco control regulation systems to indulge in the illicit trade of tobacco products.
The illicit tobacco market accounted for one in every 10 cigarettes consumed globally, according to studies, including information supplied by the global customs community.
The European Commission estimated that illicit trade in cigarettes cost the EU and their Member States over 10 billion Euros annually in lost tax and customs revenue.
“In response to the threat posed by the illicit tobacco trade, the international community negotiated and adopted in November 2012 the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, the first protocol to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” she said.
The objective of the protocol, she said, was to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products in accordance with the terms of Article 15 of the WHO FCTC.
Mrs Boateng noted that nearly six million people worldwide were killed by the tobacco epidemic of which more than 600,000 non-smokers had died from breathing second-hand smoke.
Tobacco products are known to contain 7,000 chemicals; hundreds of which are known to be toxic and about 69 are carcinogenic. Examples are Benzene, Arsenic, Cadmuim, Carbon monoxide and Formaldehyde.
“A person who contravenes any part of the Public Health Act 2012, Part Six is liable to a fine of not more than 750 penalty units (fine of GH¢9,000) or a term of imprisonment of not more than 3 years or both.”