WHO FCTC Secretariat, FDA partners EOCO in fight against illicit tobacco trade
A seven-member delegation, comprising of officials of World Health Organisation (WHO) Frame work Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat (FCTC), WHO Country Office and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), have paid a courtesy call to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) in Accra.
The purpose of the visit was to unpack the challenges faced by the country in dealing with illicit trade in tobacco products and to highlight particularly enforcement measures required to address the menace, which has dire economic and health implications.
Speaking at the gathering, the Head of the Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Directorate of Food and Drugs Authority, Dr. Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng said "The secretariat seeks to do a needs assessment to ascertain the level of illicit tobacco trade in the country"
"Taking into consideration the dangers of tobacco usage, its trade across borders despite strict legitimate supply chain, and the health implications of uncertified tobacco been smuggled"
The assessments she noted, was necessary to gather workable recommendations and enforce the articles of the Illicit Trade Protcol hence the call on EOCO to be able to spell out roles for collaboration.
On her part, Executive Director of the Economic and Organised Crime Office, COP Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo Danquah reiterated the office’s commitment to collaborating with the relevant authority to ensure strict compliance with the laws.
Touching on the legal framework of the office, she said "The EOCO office has the mandate to monitor, detect, prevent and prosecute serious offences where money laundering, tax evasion and other criminal activities could be embedded in illicit tobacco trading"
The Coordinator and Development Assistant of FCTC, Andrew Black added that despite the profitable nature of illicit tobacco trade, there was a huge global problem with trading illicit tobacco and its risk was large.
He added that despite the high profits made by the criminal perpetrators, the government loses out on huge tax revenues.
"Illicit trade in tobacco also poses a serious public health threat as it increases access to cheaper alternatives thus fueling tobacco epidemic. Hence, government will have to strengthen the supply chain controls"
Technical Coordinator for Tobacco Control at WHO, Dr. William Maina rehashed the dangers of Tobacco saying that it is very addictive and one of the causes of most non-communicable diseases like cancer.
He bemoaned the unwavering efforts placed on reducing demand, purchase and distribution but not much to reduce the supply.
He added that uncertified tobacco is detrimental to one’s health.
Present at the meeting were Dr. Joana Ansong, WHO country representative for Non Communicable Diseases and other officials of World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat, the UNDP, and some Unit Heads of EOCO.