The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has called for increased media collaboration with other stakeholders in the health sector to maximize public education and understanding for effective implementation of the provisions in the Public Health Act.
Act 581 which was passed into law by Parliament in October 2012, has nine parts with Tobacco Control Measures being the sixth, and it seeks to provide among others a legal backing to previous efforts at banning tobacco use in public places, advertising, promotion and sale of the product to persons below the age of 18 years.
Dr Kyei Faried, Director, Disease Control Department, GHS, during a press conference on Tuesday to commemorate the 2013 World No Tobacco Day in Accra, said although a lot of activism and advocacy have been carried out over the years, more remains to be done.
He said the annual event which is on the theme: “Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship”, was been organized by Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) in collaboration with the GHS and the WHO to educate the public on the provisions of the Act and influence policy makers to implement and enforce the provisions of the law.
Dr Faried said the GHS in its 2013 Programme of Work captured tobacco control as a key component in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
He said Ghana was doing well in maintaining the guidelines specified under the FCTC which seeks to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption.
Dr Faried said the GHS was currently working with the various regulatory and enforcement Agencies in the country to ensure the implementation and enforcement of the Act and urged the media and other stakeholders to integrate tobacco control issues in their programmes to ensure successful implementation.
Mrs Edith Andrews Annan, WHO Focal Point for Tobacco Control, said the theme for the occasion draws attention to the wrong message that portrays an image that tobacco use was fashionable or a desirable social habit.
She said this impedes efforts to educate people about the harmful effects of tobacco use, because it hides the fact that the product kills and rather creates an illusion that it was just an ordinary consumer product.
Mrs Annan said the FCTC was developed by WHO in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic which was facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects including trade liberalisation and direct foreign investment.
She said other factors including global marketing, trans-national tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes have also contributed to the explosive increase in tobacco use.
Mrs Annan said a total ban was the surest way to achieve meaningful results, as evidence show that a total ban on tobacco could decrease consumption by seven per cent.
She challenged the public to reject all forms of formal and informal tobacco advertisements, promotion and sponsorships including point of sale and tobacco industry sponsored social programmes.
She said the WHO was ready to support Ghana in the development of guidelines, best practices and the training of human resources to ensure the smooth implementation of the Public Health Act.
Mr Labram Musah, Director, Vision for Alternative Development, appealed to government to stand firm in preventing children from getting hooked unto tobacco and also urged Civil Society Organisations to pursue policy implementers to enforce the provisions of the Act.