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Pass Tobacco Bill now – Health Group

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Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), an NGO on Health Issues on Thursday called on government to hasten the passage of the Tobacco Bill.

This, the NGO says will reduce the burden of tobacco related diseases on the citizenry and the economy.

The challenges involved the prevention of tobacco and how to minimise or eliminate the activities of the tobacco industry through the passage of the bill into law, Mr Issa Ali, Executive Director of VALD said at a press briefing on World No Tobacco Day, which falls on Tuesday, May 31 in Accra.

This year’s celebration is designed to highlight the treaty’s overall importance to stress the obligations of the parties under the treaty and to promote its implementation internationally.

Mr Ali commended government for the enthusiasm and commitment in the fight against tobacco but noted that more needed to be done to pass the bill to set the tone for the creation of an enabling environment to fully implement Articles in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Ghana was a signatory.

The articles of the framework mandated government to come out with a tobacco law, increase tax on tobacco products to make it less affordable and inaccessible to minors, introduce pictorial and advertising and a complete ban on advertising.

He indicated that these articles had not been fully achieved and urged government to increase taxes and make them expensive to raise revenue to finance health related ailment as a result of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke in accordance with the FCTC.

Mr Ali recommended that pictorial advertising be increased from 50-80 per cent on the package to caution the non reading members of the society as well as the point of sale display of tobacco products.

Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana Health Service (GHS) said tobacco smoke contained more than 4,000 different chemicals of which 50 were known to cause cancer in humans.

He mentioned Nicotine, Ammonia, Acetone, Tar, Arsenic as some chemicals in cigarette and explained that Nicotine made smokers addictive and speeds up the nervous system, raises blood pressures while ammonia frees nicotine from tobacco, turning it into gas which is often found in dry cleaning fluids such as toilet cleaners.

Dr Osei noted that tar particulate matter drawn into the lungs and condenses smoke, 70 per cent of which is deposited in the smoker’s lungs.

He said tobacco use could kill in so many ways because it was a risk factor for six out of the eight leading causes of death in the world.

In Ghana though the figures of smokers are small, it is in the early stages of the tobacco epidemic, and it is estimated that nine per cent of users below 15 years of age could die before the age of 45.

Dr Osei noted that four out of 100 junior high school students smoke while 28 per cent of pupils in the primary school level had also been exposed to smoking, adding: “It is an alarming situation that needs urgent attention.”

According to the GHS, many studies have shown that tobacco and poverty are inextricably linked and that in the poorest households in some low income countries, as much 10-15 per cent of the total household expenditure is spent on tobacco making families have less money to spend on the basic necessities of life.

Tobacco leads to malnutrition, increase cost of health care and premature deaths while at the national level countries suffer huge economic losses as a result of high cost of health care, as well as lost of productivity due to tobacco related illness and premature deaths.

Tobacco breeds poverty, since users are at a higher risk of falling ill and dying of tobacco related diseases, thus depriving families of the much needed income and imposing additional cost of health care.

Source: GNA

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