Mr Joseph Yileh Chireh, Minister of Health, on Friday directed all agencies under the Ministry of health to ensure that all health facilities in the country boldly display No Smoking signs, with pictorials warnings in their premises.
He gave the directive in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Joseph Adomako, Director of Administration, Ministry of Health, during the National launching of World No Tobacco Day on the theme: “The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)” in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region.
“I want to re-emphasis that all earlier administrative directives restricting tobacco use in Ghana still hold. I therefore direct that all Regional Directors, Medical Superintendents and Directors of Private Medical facilities ensure that there is a bold message on the walls of the entrance to their facilities explicitly declaring them as tobacco free environments”, the Minister said.
He noted that Ghana was one of the countries that ratified the convention on tobacco control, which eventually turned to an international law and so the fight against tobacco had been ongoing and celebrating the day was meant to provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to review and improve the nation’s anti tobacco interventions.
“The national launch is also meant to provide the needed impetus for the Upper East Region, one of the worst affected regions to take a critical look at the magnitude of tobacco use and its effects and initiate interventions to check the silent epidemic, which kills and impoverishes us over the years without any benefit”, he said.
He called on chiefs and traditional leaders in the region to join in the anti tobacco campaign, saying studies had shown that many people, 11.4 per cent, use tobacco in the area, in its various forms, cigarettes, snuff or chewing it.
Mr Yileh Chireh said tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of disability and death among adults in the world and also contributed to poverty and hunger as land that could be used to cultivate food crops was used for the tobacco plant while money that could be used for the upkeep of the family was used to buy cigarettes.
He said the government, Ministry of Health and other stakeholders were making efforts to pass the Tobacco bill that would help government to regulate the activities of the tobacco companies, protect the public from exposure to tobacco smoke, check illicit trade in tobacco products and educate the public on tobacco related illnesses.
The Minister appealed to the press, religious bodies, NGOs and all other Ministries, Departments, Agencies and the private sector to team up with the Ministry of Health to pursue actions aimed at protecting the youth from subtle and deceptive marketing strategies of tobacco companies.
Dr John Koku Awoonor-Williams, Regional Director of Health Services, said the active smoker or user of tobacco was at risk of contracting various forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung disease, peptic ulcer, dementia and other mental diseases. However, those who did not smoke but by proximity might inhale the smoke could also be exposing themselves to diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, ear diseases and heart problems.
He appealed to non-smokers to stay away from the smoke of tobacco and smokers to quit the habit and enjoy benefits such as reduction in heart rate, better blood circulation, and decrease in coughing and general improvement in health.
Mrs Lucy Awuni, Deputy Regional Minister, explained that tobacco use was deeply rooted in the traditional and cultural practices of the people, including funerals and marriages and is widely sold in the markets and kept in almost every home. Many farmers have portions of land solely for tobacco.
She noted that marijuana cultivation and use could not be overlooked and charged security agencies in the region to be more vigilant and clamp down on producers and peddlers and smokers of narcotic substances, which are causing health problems and creating public insecurity in the region.