More than 6,700 Ghanaians die annually from tobacco-related illnesses.
Of the number, 4,422 representing 66 per cent died prematurely under age 70 while 1,206 representing 18 per cent lost their lives due to exposure to second-hand smoke.
To address the growing trend, DrBaffourAwuah, Acting Director of Technical Coordination and Special Advisor on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Ministry of Health, said the government was exploring the adoption of comprehensive smoke free policies and had ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting on tobacco control in Accra yesterday, he added that, the country had passed the Tobacco Control measures as part of Public Health Act (Act 851), 2012; adopted the TobaccoControl Regulations (L.I. 2247) and enforced the implementation of Graphic Health Warnings on all tobacco product packaging.
Organised by the Foods and Drugs Authority (FDA) in collaboration with other developmental partners, the meeting was to analyse the status of tobacco control in Ghana, including the challenges, priorities, and potential needs in view of best practices and global standards.
It formed part of ongoing WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) needs assessment in Ghana aimed at evaluating the existing mechanism of tobacco control in the country and identifying opportunities for improvement.
Dr Awuah stated that the needs assessment mission in Ghana offers an opportunity to identify the rhythmic changes in tobacco control and modify to enable the country modify her approach in curbing the growing menace.
The Ministry of Health, he indicated, requested the needs assessment to assess the country’s progress in the implementation of the WHO FCTC treaty whilst determining the gaps between the requirements of the treaty and the tobacco control measures adopted by Ghana over the last decade.
Ms Emily Roberts, a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) noted that Ghana was losing GH¢668 million every year due to tobacco use, adding that the country stands to lose GH¢7.3 billion by 2037.
To this end, she said, it was critical that Ghana implements FCTC policy actions including increasing tobacco taxation to reduce the affordability of tobacco products and create smoke-free public and workplaces to protect people from the harms of tobacco smoke.
Additionally, she said the country would make gains against the menace by implementing plain packaging of tobacco products, enforcing a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Also, she advocated the promotion of cessation of tobacco use and treatment for tobacco dependence.
Ms Roberts stated that investment in the policy actions would prevent more than 20,000 deaths and avert GH¢1.3 billion in economic losses by 2037.
Among other things, she recommended the development of a national tobacco control strategy to strictly enforce the prohibition of the sale of tobacco to minors.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, FDA, Seth K. Seneake, said the Authority was focused on enforcing the ban on tobacco advertising and promotion, implementing pictorial health warnings, ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Tobacco Trade and mass media campaigns on tobacco dangers.
He noted that the WHO FCTC needs assessment would help in developing the requisite legislation tailored at addressing the rapidly evolving facets of tobacco control.
Dr Elizabeth Gyimah, representative of WHO Ghana, said tobacco use was one of leading causes of preventable diseases, adding that illicit trade of tobacco places a strain on health systems.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS