Trend of smoking among Ghana students stable – Survey

Smoking among Junior High School students has not increased over the years, though more needs to be done to reduce the trend among young smokers, a study by Ghana Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), said on Tuesday.

The survey therefore recommended the use of the media to uncover, expose and inhibit tobacco consumption and its harmful effect and the tobacco industry.

Disseminating the findings of the 2009 survey at the Lekma Cluster of Schools in Accra, Mrs Edith Wellington, Focal Person on Tobacco Control of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said the GYTS is a school-based tobacco specific survey, which focuses on adolescents between 13-15 years.

Ghana first participated in the multi-country initiative in 2000, repeated it in 2006 and in 2009.

She said the survey was aimed at documenting and monitoring the prevalence of tobacco-use.

It assessed learners’ knowledge, beliefs and attitudes related to tobacco-using behaviour, as well as smoking cessation and environmental tobacco smoke.

On prevalence students who ever smoked was 8.9 per cent as compared to 11.5 per cent in 2006 and 14.6 per cent in 2000.

The survey noted that 38.8 per cent boys and 28.8 per cent girls in 2009, and 40.8 per cent boys and 29.1 per cent girls in 2006 were of the view that people who smoke have more friends while 12.8 per cent boys and 11.6  per cent girls in 2009 taught that those who smoke looked more attractive compared to 15.2 per cent boys and 13.1 per cent girls in 2006 and 17.9 per cent for boys and 16 per cent for girls in 2000.

On access to and availability of cigarettes, Mrs Wellington said in 2009, 35.5 per cent of current smokers indicated they usually smoked at home and that it was significantly lower than the 40.8 per cent of current smokers in 2006 and  24.4 per cent in 2000.

There was however a significant difference across the three surveys in terms of the availability of cigarettes.

In 2009, 26.9 per cent of current smokers usually bought their cigarettes in a store, while in 2006 34.3 per cent had their cigarettes from stores and in 2000 49.3 per cent purchased their cigarettes in a store.

In 2009, close to nine out of 10 pupils who currently smoked cigarettes, and eight out of the 10 in 2006, reported that they wanted to stop smoking at the time of the survey. However, in 2000 92.5 per cent wanted to stop smoking.

Majority of pupils in the three surveys had tried to stop smoking during the past year. Similarly, a higher percentage of current smokers at the time of the survey reported that they had ever received help to quit the habit.

Ms Sophia Twum- Barimah, Communications Officer of the World Health Organisation (WHO) who spoke on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first international health treaty spearheaded by the organisation said it was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2003.

The adoption of the treaty followed a process of two years of negotiations with governments, non-governmental organisations and interested persons and provided governments with a supportive environment so that tobacco control interventions could be implemented at national levels.

The aim of the FCTC she said was to reduce smoking and other forms of tobacco use, which is responsible for innumerable illnesses and deaths.

She said the treaty requires governments to “develop, implement, periodically update and review comprehensive multi-sectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes”, relating to price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, protection from exposure to tobacco smoke and regulation of the contents of tobacco products.

According to Ms Twun Barimah, Ghana has signed and ratified the WHO FCTC but was yet to enact legislation, even though a Tobacco Control Bill has been drafted and been reviewed many times.

This notwithstanding, she said  Ghana has been involved in tobacco control having recognised that the spread of the tobacco epidemic is a global problem with serious consequences for public health.

Tobacco use is rising steadily especially among the youth and there is also evidence of a rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases like cancers and strokes as well as hypertension have all been linked to its use, she said and called for concerted efforts to stem the tide.

Source: GNA

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