More than 6,700 Ghanaians die every year due to tobacco-related illnesses, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health has stated.
He said out of the number, 4,422 representing 66 per cent of these deaths were individuals under 70 and about 18 per cent of Ghanaian lives were lost from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said this when he was represented by the Chief Director of the Ministry, Alhaji Adams Hafis at the commemoration of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) aimed at raising awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use.
The programme which was on the theme; ‘We need food not Tobacco” was organised under the auspices of the Food and Drugs Authority in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
It was attended by stakeholders from the health sector, students from selected school in Nima and its environs and traditional rulers among others.
He said the extensive use of insecticides and toxic chemicals during tobacco cultivation contributes to poor health of many farmers and families.
The Minister said Ghana had taken steps in tobacco control which increase the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products which came in force in January 2022, inclusion of tobacco specific provision in the Public Health Act 2012, passage of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2016(LI).
“The introduction of graphic health warning, continuous enforcement of tobacco control 2030 project,” he added.
The Country Director for Ghana of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Francis Chisaka Kasolo who was represented by Dr Angela Ackon stated that the theme aimed at raising awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crop.
She said Dr Kasolo stated that the tobacco epidemic was one of the biggest public health challenges the world had ever faced, killing more than eight million people around world every year.
“While the number of people using tobacco products is decreasing in other parts of the world, it is rising in the Africa Region. For example, the number of tobacco users in the WHO Africa Region increased from estimated 64 million adult users in 2000 to 73 million in 2018,” he added.
He said tobacco farming destroys the ecosystems, depletes soil of fertility, contaminates water bodies and pollutes the environment.
The Country Director stated that nearly 828 million people were facing hunger globally, of the number, 278 million were in Africa, stressing the need for concerted action to have enough food.
He said WHO was working with members’ states and other partners to assist farmers in shifting from tobacco growing to alternative crops.
Dr Koloso called on Government to support farmers to switch to alternative crops by ending growing subsidies and using the saving for crop substitution programmes to improve food security and nutrition.
He said shifting from tobacco to nutritious food crops has the potential to feed millions of families.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Mr Seth Seaneke who represented the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, Mrs Delese Mimi Darko said the annual campaign was an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use, second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke and discourage the use of tobacco.
As part of the occasion, a quiz competition was organised and Nima Basic School emerged the winner followed by Saint Kizito School and Institute of Islamic Studies with second and third position respectively.
The students were presented with award prizes and certificates.
BY ANITA NYARKO-YIRENKYI