Monday, June 1, 2009

Speed up passage of the Tobacco Bill - Anti-tobacco group

Speed up passage of the Tobacco Bill - Anti-tobacco group
Ghana News Agency (GNA)
May 28, 2009

Accra, May 28, GNA - Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a civil society group, on Thursday called for the establishment of a National Tobacco Control Council to ensure the swift passage of the Tobacco Bill into law. Briefing the media in Accra Mr Issah Ali, Executive Director of VALD, said members of the council, which should comprise relevant government agencies and civil society groups, would be expected to advise the Health Minister and other relevant agencies in the enforcement of the Tobacco Act. The bill, which has been in a draft form since 2005, when passed into law, will among other things, ban smoking in public places and prohibit the sale of tobacco products in health and educational institutions, theatres and sports stadiums. The bill in accordance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will prohibit advertisements and promotion of tobacco products and sale of tobacco products to persons under-18 years of age. Mr Ali said there was no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and recommended a total ban on smoking in all public places since the current directive was specific in certain public places. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 1.3 billion smokers worldwide with 4.9 million people dying each year before their 50th birthday. He said it was unfortunate that smoking and death had reduced in the developed world where this aspect of social vice originated from but had risen in poorer countries where women and young children were the most affected. He said tobacco companies had redirected their attention from the developed countries to the developing countries, including Ghana, with their business through sponsorship and advertisement and urged government to act swiftly to avoid the damage their actions might cause to the people. "Governments and other agencies are urged not to have any dealing with the tobacco industry as stated in the FCTC Article 5.3 and, if any, such interactions should be made public to ensure the effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Act," he added. Mr Ali called on the government to increase tobacco tax in line with the Article 6 of FCTC to make the product unattractive and expensive for children to buy and recommended a 100 per cent tax increase in the price of tobacco products. Tobacco smoking causes a lot of harm to the health of people and its use is a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal, disabling diseases and preventable deaths leading to cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases. A stick of cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals which when inhaled could result in cardiovascular diseases, cancer of the kidney, lung, breast, pancreas, peptic, bladder, bronchitis and emphysema among others and puffing a stick is like puffing a whole packet of it. "If government is seriously interested in fighting the use of hard drugs, then, passage of the tobacco control bill is the first step. It has been established by the Narcotics Control Board that cigarette use is the gateway to the use of hard drugs such as Indian hemp, cocaine and heroin," Mr Ali concluded. 28 May 09

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