Parliament on Friday urged relevant authorities to be decisive in enforcing the law banning smoking in public places in view of that practice’s negative impact on societal health and on the country’s developmental objectives.
They have also implored the media and civil society organisations to facilitate sensitisation on the nuance of the law and the dangers that result from smoking, calling for more inter-agency cooperation to monitor the implementation of the law.
The lawmakers were contributing to a statement read on the floor of Parliament by Mr Alex Adomako Mensah, the member for Sekyere Afram Plains, who highlighted the risk associated with the use of tobacco and the need for purposefulness in controlling its use in Ghana.
The statement was to mark the World No Tobacco Day that is observed around the world every year on May 31. The theme for this year’s event is: “Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship”.
The day is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually.
The policymakers used the day to draw attention to the non-implementation of the Public Health Act (Act 851) that prohibits smoking in public spaces and the need to create awareness on the law and enforcing that piece of legislation to the letter.
Mr Mensah said although Ghana had done well by legislating against the public use of tobacco, it was worrisome that the enforcement of those laws had been relaxed.
He said it was incumbent on the authorities to protect present and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences associated with smoking, but also to guard against the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The Public Health Bill was passed in July last year and assented to in November 2012. The Act consolidates the law relating public health to prevent disease, promote, safeguard, maintain and protect the health of humans and animals and to provide for related matters.
Part six of the Act that deals with tobacco control measures prohibits smoking in public places and restricts advertising in relation to tobacco and tobacco products and sponsorship by tobacco manufacturers.
Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, MP for Asawase entreated institutions that exerted pressure for the passage of Public Health Bill to apply that same fervour in ensuring that the law is implemented.
He urged civil society organisations to mount pressure on the ministries and agencies charged with the implementation of the law to live up to their billing.
“The lung cancer and the other diseases associated with smoking is real”, he stated.
Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, MP for Manyhia South, said it was pertinent to implement the ban on smoking, suggesting the erection of bold signs at public places prohibiting smoking, and stressing the need to provide support services for those addicted to smoking.
Murtala Mohammed Ibrahim, MP for Nanton and a Deputy Minister for Information and Media Relations, underscored the importance of the media and religious bodies in sensitising the public on the ills of smoking and the punitive measures inherent in the Act to minimise smoking in public places.
Isaac Kwame Asiamah, MP for Atwima-Mponua, held that whilst the law was being enforced, steps should be taken to address the reasons why people smoked in the first place, suggesting that the act could be a microcosm of a bigger societal problem.
Mr Richard Quarshigah, MP for Keta, also called on the authorities to do a lot more to make the law significant by implementing it and asked organisations that support NGOs to back them financially to carry out educational campaigns on tobacco and drug effects.
The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. In the past twenty years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.