Coalition on Tobacco Control Bill insists on pictorial warnings on tobacco packs
The Coalition on Tobacco Control Bill (CTCB) on Thursday presented a petition to the Ministry of Health, calling for urgent redirection of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs without further delay.
It also urged the Ministry to seek Parliamentary approval for the establishment of the Tobacco Control Fund within the Public Health Bill, to implement the Tobacco Control Measures.
Mr Labram Massawudu Musah, Programme Director, CTCB who presented the petition to Mr Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, Deputy Minister of Health in Accra, said implementation of the pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs were cost effective ways of reducing tobacco use, exposure to tobacco smoke, reaching smokers and non-smokers with low level of education and literacy to help reduce disparities in health knowledge.
He stated that as a result of high level of illiteracy, Ghana did not necessarily require text only warnings especially when research by UNICEF had indicated that approximately one out of every three people in Ghana was illiterate.
Mr Musah said even countries with high literacy rates and few languages had found that text-only messages were not nearly effective as those with accompanying pictures.
The Coalition which comprised of a network of Civil Society Organisations advocating for the implementation and enforcement of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the passage of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Bill into law, aimed at protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Mr Musah who read the petition on behalf of the Coalition, accused the FDB for failing to exhibit commitment to implement pictorial health warnings on tobacco pack, adding “This does not conform to Ghana’s commitment to the international community and non-compliance to some of the 2007 Ghana’s Ministry of Health Directives on the implementation of the FCTC”.
He mentioned that even though Ghana ratified the FCTC in 2004, becoming the 39th Party in the West African Sub-Region to have ratified the Convention and also contributed greatly to the development of the FCTC during the inter-governmental negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, the country failed to meet the February 27, 2010 deadline of implementing “A comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship” as well as the passage of a “comprehensive smoke-free legislation”.
Mr Musah said the Coalition however, applauded efforts by Parliamentarians, especially members of the Select Committee on Health, the Ministry of Health and Ghana health Service for taking a bold step to quickly move the Public Health Bill to its current stage of consideration in Parliament.
He acknowledged contribution of the November 1, 2007 MOH Tobacco Control Directives titled: “Directives for the Registration of Tobacco and Tobacco Products”, which was currently being used by the FDB to implement the FCTC and regulate tobacco products and tobacco industry in Ghana.
Mr Musah said Item Three of the Directives “The labelling on the tobacco and or tobacco products must conform to the approved format as specified by FDB”.
He said notwithstanding all these, civil society in the entire region would be forced to embark on series of regional demonstrations if government failed to commit itself to the implementation of pictorial health warnings on Ghana’s tobacco packs.
Mr Mettle-Nunoo expressed satisfaction at the level of involvement of CSO’s in public health in Ghana and assured the Coalition that the Ministry would consider its petition and act appropriately.
He stated that the Ministry would need expert advice on the issue of the pictorial health warnings to agree on what form it must take.
However, Mr Mettle-Nunoo attributed the delay in the passage of the Tobacco Bill which was currently at its consideration stage in Parliament to some technicalities within the health sector, citing legislations including the Traditional Medicines Act, which might contain aspects on tobacco and thus care must be taken to prevent duplication of laws.