Health News of Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Source: GNA

Accra, Aug. 19, GNA - The Director-General of the Ghana Health

Service (GHS), Dr Elias Sory, on Tuesday stressed the need to galvanize efforts to help curb a tobacco epidemic before the situation got out of hand.

In his view, "a stitch in time saves nine" and that preventing the problem and saving the younger ones from the epidemic was the best thing any country should aim at and called for collaboration with countries such as Nigeria and Canada to help stem the tide.

Speaking at a consultative meeting on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Accra he noted that the epidemic was a developmental problem that should not be ignored. Citing the case of Canada, Dr Sory said it took the North American country many years to get over the problem because they ignored it initially.

The meeting's objectives are to identify and document roadblocks to the FCTC's implementation and international funding of tobacco control in Ghana and establish mechanisms of continuous cooperation between Ghana and Canada to strengthen tobacco control in Ghana, including a mechanism for identifying project and activities and raise funding to support the activities.

"While eradicating some diseases we should be mindful of what tobacco-related diseases can do," Dr. Sory said.

According to Mrs. Edith Wellington, Focal person on Tobacco Control (GHS) Ghana, the control programme had made modest progress. She said the next major achievement would be the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill, which was still pending in the ministry awaiting cabinet consideration.

Mrs Wellington said the Food and Drugs Board had designed a form that registered and kept records of all tobacco importers in the country and was required to sign a document to abide by directives, which reflected the key essentials of the FCTC.

She called for the political will to carry out tobacco programmes and the collaboration of tobacco control with existing programmes such as TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. "Let us dedicate time to get the result; don't expect instant success."

Ms. Sophia Twum Barima, Communication Officer of the WHO, commended Ghana for winning the WHO Award on Tobacco Control and named the winner as Comfort Opoku Ware of the Ghana Tourist Board.

She said it was worrying that 14 per cent of the youth smoked and called on stakeholders to get on board to stem the epidemic. Mr Neil Collishaw, Research Director, Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada, said tobacco was not a leading cause of death in Ghana yet but there was the need to stamp out tobacco now before it got worse and not repeat the mistakes of Canada and other countries. He said a small, low cost effort now on tobacco control would head off yet another scourge of tobacco disease and death in the future.