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"Ghana has taken giant steps in tobacco control" - Health Minister

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu says Ghana has taken giant steps in tobacco control.

According to him, some of the giants steps include; the Protocol to Eliminate illicit Trade Products which came into force in January 2022.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Director, Ministry of Health, Alhaji Hafiz Adams at this year’s World No Tobacco Day on the theme, 'We need food and not tobacco' in Accra, he said "This includes the Protocol to Eliminate illicit Trade Products which came into force in January 2022, inclusion of tobacco specific provisions in the Public Health Act, 2012, passage of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2016 (L.I. 2247), the introduction of graphic health warnings, continuous enforcement of tobacco control (FCTC) 2030 Project.

He noted that this World No Tobacco Day launch commences a year-long nationwide campaign which includes media engagements, public education in secondary schools and community sensitization.

He stressed that the campaign can only be successful with the support from one another.

"We are privileged on this day to have our cherished stakeholders and partners here for the commemoration of this year’s World No Tobacco Day and look forward to your continuous collaboration in oour vision towards a tobacco free society"

Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sets aside May 31st to campaign together with global partners, against the harmful and deadly effect of tobacco use and to discourage in any form.

"As the world commemorates World No Tobacco Day today, we cannot exempt ourselves from the global campaign to raise awareness on growing sustainable food crops instead of tobacco which is in line with the theme for this year’s celebrations, 'We Need Food, Not Tobacco' "

The WHO estimates that tobacco is grown as a cash crop on an estimated 4 million hectares of land in more than 125 countries, clearing an estimated 200,000 hectares of forest each year in the small amount of arable land and water that could be used to grow more food crops.

Due to the increased likelihood of desertification in tobacco farmlands, this practice has resulted in the death of thousands of trees and had a much worse impact on ecosystems.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, more than 6,700 Ghanaians die every year due to tobacco-related illnesses of which sixty-six percent (66%) of these deaths are individuals under age 70.

He revealed that about 18% of Ghanaian lives are lost from exposure to second-hand smoke.

The statement hinted that the tobacco industry frequently promotes itself as an advocate of good livelihood for tobacco farmers, but this is far from the truth.

"Indeed, the annual celebration of this day is a constant reminder of the efforts we can all put into the fight against tobacco use and support the government of Ghana in developing suitable strategies and an enabling market condition for the tobacco growing farmers to shift to growing food crops"

He applauded efforts of the Food and Drugs Authority, World Health Organization, Ghana Health Service, Vision for Alternative Development and all stakeholders in tobacco control for their continuous efforts in spearheading tobacco control in Ghana.

"As a nation, we remain committed to closing the gaps in tobacco control and are resolute that our vision of a tobacco free society is closer than ever"

In a speech read on behalf of the World Health

Organization Country Representative for Ghana, Dr. Francis Chisaka Kasolo by the Technical Officers in charge of Quality and Safety, Dr. Angela Ackon said "The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health challenges the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people around the world every year"

She noted that while the number of people using tobacco products is decreasing in other parts of the world, it is rising in the Africa Region.

"For example, the number of tobacco users in the WHO African Region increased from an estimated 64 million adult users in 2000 to 73 million in 2018. This is partly due to the increased production of tobacco products as well as aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry"

Dr. Ackon explained that Tobacco growing and production exacerbates nutrition and food insecurity adding that its farming destroys the ecosystems, depletes soils of fertility, contaminates water bodies and pollutes the environment.

"Any profits to be gained from tobacco as a cash crop may not offset the damage done to sustainable food production in low- and middle-income countries"

She hinted that nearly 828 million people are facing hunger globally, f these, 278 million (20%) are in Africa .

"In addition, 57.9% of people in Africa suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity. This jeopardizes the region's attainment of SDG 2 which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. The intensification of the major drivers behind recent food insecurity and malnutrition trends, such as conflict, climate extremes, and economic shocks, further compounds this situation. Therefore, our concerted actions are essential, so everyone has enough food"

The WHO disclosed that it is working with Member States and other partners to assist farmers in shifting from tobacco growing to alternative crops.

"In the last two years, an initiative in Kenya has assisted over 2000 tobacco farmers to turn to alternative crops. This has resulted in improved food and nutrition security, increased income for farmers, healthier farming activities as well as environmental rehabilitation"

The WHO charged government of Ghana to support tobacco farmers to switch to alternative crops by ending tobacco growing subsidies and using the savings for crop substitution programmes to improve food security and nutrition.

Such initiatives, she revealed will also combat deseltification and environmental degradation, raise awareness in tobacco farming communities about the benefits of moving away from tobacco and growing sustainable crops and exposing the tobacco industry's efforts to obstruct sustainable livelihoods work in the Africa Region.

"Finally, we appeal to Ministry of Health and stakeholders to step up the implementation of Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) by enacting legislation, developing, and implementing suitable policies and strategies, and enabling market conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops that would provide them and their families with a better life while enhancing the protection of the environment and the health of people"

Miss Williams, a JHS student who read on behalf of the students said "Tobacco, Just the word alone conjures up images of smoke-filled rooms, stained teeth, and the debilitating effects it has on our health. Yet, despite all the warnings and knowledge available to us, it continues to claim countless lives, snuff out dreams, and cast a dark shadow over our world"

"We are not alone in this fight. Our voices are joined by millions of advocates around the world who have the knowledge or have been affected by the consequences of tobacco. Together, we have the power to ignite change, break the chains of addiction, and inspire others to live a life free from the shackles of tobacco use"

"We must empower ourselves with knowledge, arming ourselves with the facts to make informed decisions and to choose a path that leads to a brighter and healthier future"

Other speakers called on Government to engage tobacco farmers in a dialogue to switch food cultivation.

The "We Need Food, Not Tobacco" campaign this year strives to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco on health, the environment and the economic implications of tobacco use and cultivation.

It will highlight the need to focus on food cultivation rather than tobacco.

The campaign aims to embark on a mass media campaign to enhance social media presence of anti-tobacco related messages.

The World No Tobacco campaign also unveils the tobacco industry's efforts to obstruct measures to substitute tobacco farming with sustainable cash crop production.

World No Tobacco Day 2023 will serve as an opportunity to expose the tactics of the tobacco industry as well as dire implications of tobacco use and cultivation.

This campaign will also support the development of suitable strategies for the ultimate aim of creating a tobacco-free society.

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith



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