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Health News of Saturday, 11 September 2021

Source: GNA

Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco awaits assent - Dr Boateng

The last step for activation of the protocol is presidential assent The last step for activation of the protocol is presidential assent

Dr Olivia Boateng, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Focal Person, Ghana, says the Protocol to eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco products is awaiting Presidential assent.

She said: “Presently, Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has processed the instrument on the Protocol and accordingly submitted to the presidency for assent.

“The Ministry is expected to aid in facilitating the processes associated with obtaining the presidential assent and subsequently delivery of the ratification instrument to the Treaty Section of the United Nations Secretariat.”

Dr Boateng, who is also the Head, Tobacco and Substances of abuse Department of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) made this known at a Tobacco Control Capacity Programme, Dissemination and Engagement meeting in Accra.

She said Parliament at its second sitting of the second meeting held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 approved by resolution on the Protocol.

She said Ghana continued to make significant strides in tobacco control in line with the Public Health Act, 2012 and the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (L.I. 2247).

“As a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Ghana subscribes to the various conventions and protocols aimed at the control of tobacco and the minimization of the dire health effects.

“By extension of subscription to the WHO FCTC, Ghana is an eligible party to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.

“This Protocol is an international treaty with the objective of eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products through a package of measures to be taken by countries acting in cooperation with each other and that in summary; it is a global solution to a global problem,” Dr Boateng said.

She said: “The FDA in collaboration with the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) hosted an Inter-Agency meeting targeted at facilitating discussions in domesticating the protocol.

“The outcome of the meeting is incorporated into the development of a roadmap towards the implementation of the protocol and the elements of the draft roadmap include; increase in tobacco product taxation as a deterrent to tobacco product utilization,” she said.

Others were on incorporating taxes beyond the entry point and along the supply chain, review of legislative documents on tobacco control to identify provision for illicit trade while following the identification of gaps, prepare a proposal amendment to the Attorney-General’s Department, she said.

Dr Arti Singh, a Public Health Physician, School of Public Health (SPH) – Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) presentated on the findings from a multi-methods study conducted by the SPH on illicit tobacco trade.

The study said out of 4461 cigarette packs collected from retailers, 924 (20.7 per cent) were classified as illicit and that close to half of 384 retailers were not aware of illicit tobacco and a third not aware of tobacco control laws on illicit products.

It said 53.5 per cent of packs were collected from border towns and that close to half of the illicit tobacco products originate from Togo.

The study said lack of data, porous borders and low awareness of stakeholders facilitated the illicit tobacco market in Ghana and tracking and tracing system, strengthening of borders and more research were necessary.

It recommended country-specific tracking and tracing system of illicit trade of tobacco and enforcement of law on single stick sale while calling for the implementation and enforcement of the illicit tobacco protocol and the generation of more evidence on tobacco industry interference.

“Civil society organisations should continue to strengthen efforts on tobacco industry monitoring. The CSOs should embark on educational campaigns and targeted media to provide information to retailers on tobacco control laws and illicit tobacco products. They should develop advocacy messages on health hazards of tobacco to youth,” the study recommended.

Mr Michael K. Boachie of the Department of Health Policy Planning and Management School of Public Health, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, who spoke on Tobacco Taxation and Illicit Trade in Ghana said health taxes were imposed on tobacco and alcohol that were major risk factors for non-communicable diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, and diabetes, among others.

Mr Boachie said with tight borders and strict enforcement of laws, illicit trade would not thrive because tobacco companies and distributors would find it unprofitable to operate in the “shadow economy.”

He said; “The illicit (tobacco) trade is mainly a border, law enforcement and tax administration problem, and not a taxation problem.

“The law (Excise Tax Stamp Act, 2013 (873), requires that excisable products without tax stamp affixed on them be seized and that persons who put or release excisable products for sale without the stamp affixed are liable to a fine not exceeding 300 per cent of the duties and taxes involved or a term of imprisonment not more than five years or both.

“However, if potential profits from illegal activities exceed the punishment, people will still engage in illegal activities.”

Mr Labram Musah, the Director of Programmes of VALD who spoke on “Tobacco Industry Interference in Ghana” said tobacco industry had interfered in developing tobacco control policies, strengthening of measures to control tobacco use and the implementation of the WHO FCTC and its protocols.

He said since the passage of Act 851 in 2012, Ghana was yet to develop a code of conduct to guide public officers in their conduct in dealing with the tobacco industry in line with Article 5.3 and that the lack of it potentially promoted industry interference.

“Existing evidence suggests that the friendly nature of government policy and regulations serves as an incentive to promote the tobacco industry activities, while the government fail to disclose its meetings with the tobacco industry as per the WHO FCTC Art 5.3.

“No strict prohibition of contributions from the tobacco industry to the government, which the law prohibits in regard to sponsorship,” it said.