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Health News of Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson || Spy News Agency

AG’s Office hijacks Tobacco Control LI Ghanaians die of secondhand smoking

It is on record that many Ghanaians are dying of tobacco-related illnesses, most especially second-hand smoking. Aside that the possibility of young people also picking up the habit of smoking in Ghana is so high giving reasons for parental concerns.

This perhaps explains why many concerned parents and some Civil Society Organizations in 2012 strongly agitated for a law that would control or regulate tobacco use in Ghana, as a result of which Ghana’s Parliament, on July 11, 2012, finally passed the Public Health Act (Act 851). Part six of this law contains Measures to Control Tobacco in Ghana. President John Dramani Mahama appended his signature to the law on October 9 of the same year.

These notwithstanding, the law can still not be implemented effectively because of the absence of a Legislative Instrument (LI) that is supposed to direct how the law should be implemented and also define its scope. The Ministry of Health recently stated that the LI is ready for presentation to Parliament for adoption.

Independent checks by Spy News Agency, however, indicates that the draft LI on Ghana’s Tobacco Control Measures is still gathering dust on the shelves of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice. The document which according to our sources has been ready since the first quarter of 2013 was sent to that office for what has been termed “Legal fine-tuning”. However, it has not moved out of that office since then, causing many stakeholders to wonder what really could be happening.

Some Members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health have told in confidence that they have been expecting the LI since the day the law was passed. They said they cannot explain why the LI have still not been presented to them despite the law haven been passed close to three years now.

“Even the delay in the implementation of the Law on Tobacco Control does not speak well of Ghana in international circles. We have signed onto the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which demands that we must pass a law to regulate tobacco use in our country. Parliament has passed the law, but we don’t have control over when the LI should be presented to this House for adoption. But, I tell you, the delay is not good for use at all,” a highly placed member of the Committee told our reporter.

The concerns of some stakeholders are to the effect that the ‘ever powerful’ Tobacco Industry might be pulling some strings at the Attorney General’s Department just so the implementation of the law could be delayed. Indeed, it is the Tobacco Industry that benefits when a country has weak laws.

The General Secretary of the Media Alliance in Tobacco Control (MATCO), Mr. Emmanuel Tsedey in an interview with expressed his disappointment at the AG’s Office for the delay in pushing the LI to Parliament for adoption.

According to him, “The longer we delay the implementation of the law the higher the risk of our children beginning the habit of smoking. We cannot sit by and watch our children die of tobacco when indeed we can take steps now to prevent that from happening. We are calling on the Attorney General to present the LI to parliament immediately. We must avoid the Kenya example”.

The law, when implemented, will ban smoking in public places as well as the sale of cigarette to minors. It will also ban all tobacco companies from sponsoring any public event in any form.

Mr Tsedey appealed to health professionals to support the campaign against all tobacco substances abuse since it affects the respiratory system.

He revealed that the use of tobacco, especially among girls, is on the increase, adding that “Tobacco use kills nearly six million people each year, and of these, more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke.”

“You see, the fact is that tobacco kills up to one half of all users and remains one of the leading preventable causes of death. Tobacco is not known to have any health benefit at all. On the contrary, tobacco causes diseases, disability and premature death, the tobacco industry cannot be a stakeholder in improving public health, so we must not allow them to interfere with our laws,” he stated.

It is estimated that 10 million people globally would die from lung cancer by 2020 with about 70 percent of the deaths coming from developing countries like Ghana.

The commonest diseases associated with tobacco smoking are cancers of the oesophagus, hardening of arteries, larynx and infection of bladder and kidney cirrhosis as well as brain damage and decrease in endurance.

The addictive nature resulting from the euphoria and pleasant feelings associated with tobacco abuse and the long consequences of manifestation made patrons ignore the aftermath effects of smoking.

Article 5.3 of the FCTC obligates parties to the convention to protect their tobacco control policies from tobacco industry interference.

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