Politics of Thursday, 12 July 2012

Source: XYZ

Public Smoking: Gov't officials were induced to frustrate bill - Akosa

Remarks of “better late than never” met the banning of smoking in public places following the passage of the Public Health Bill on Wednesday. Akin to this was the reaction from the renowned pathologist and anti-smoking campaigner, Prof. Agyemang Badu Akosa, when the announcement was made on Wednesday on the floor of parliament.

The Bill is set to be presented to President Mills for his assent. Clause 58, which forms Part Six of the bill, deals with tobacco control measures and prohibits smoking in public places.

In the Bill, other provisions on tobacco control deal with health warnings on cigarettes, sale of tobacco, packaging and labeling of tobacco, advertising of tobacco and tobacco products, among others.

The Bill also requires that the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) regulates the tobacco industry and that it may appoint inspectors and analysts to carry out its functions.

Much as this comes as comforting news to many, Prof. Agyemang Badu Akosa, says the irresponsible governance of past and present administrations delayed the passage of the Bill for the past eight years and that “within the eight years, only God knows how many Ghanaians have faced the consequences of smoking.”

In an interview with Emefa Apawu on Breakfast XYZ on Thursday, Prof Akosa said “it is clear that I am happy today but I want to just say this that it almost points to the fact that leadership in this country do not really give a damn about the health of the people in this country.”

He blamed the erstwhile Kufuor administration for sabotaging the very first Tobacco Bill that was placed before cabinet in 2004. Asked if he thought some inducement took place, Prof Akosa said “absolutely! I will say that with a chip on my shoulder.”

“Mr God! Their (Tobacco Companies) power of influence is so great and they do it through great inducement. Don’t sit down and be naive and think that people have not benefited. The Tobacco Company has paid many people in this country,” he alleged.

He suggested that one of the major reasons for the delays was because the Vice President of the British American Tobacco Company came to see President Kufuor in 2004 to find ways to frustrate the bill.

“Why do you think the whole President of British American Tobacco came to Ghana in 2004?... He came to see the President. He did not come to see the Health Minister. The Minister of Health was called to meet him and the President,” he stressed.

Touching on his motivation for waging the campaign against the smoking of tobacco, Prof. Akosa said: “Tobacco is a very terrible chemical. The constituent chemicals do all sorts of things but particularly what it does is that it affects all the tiny blood vessels that send blood to every part of your body.”

Prof. Akosa averred that the banning of smoking in public sends a great signal to the public about the dangers of smoking and that it is not enough to have the danger signs on the pack.

Prof. Akosa says he can now confidently confront anyone who, hitherto, would have put him off for smoking in public, saying “I have done it on a number of occasions and people, particularly foreigners, have had the audacity to say that there is no law against it in this country. But now anybody dare me!”

He expressed fears that “smoking is becoming fashionable again and it is the young people who are taking on this rather bad habit.”

He advised that if anyone starts smoking early, the consequences are dire and the new law should be able to put people under check.

“If you have to pay your way to death then you are not a sensible person because the cost of tobacco almost always leads to death and therefore you are spending money to die.”**