CSOs call for ban of e-cigarettes

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana have called for a ban on electronic cigarettes in the country to prevent a threat to public health.

A statement jointly signed by Mr Labram Musah, Executive Director of Programmes – Vision for Alternative Development Ghana (VALD Ghana) and Ms Rhoda Mingle, Communications Officer – Ghana NCD Alliance, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 14, 2023, unveiled a technical paper to fight the menace of electronic cigarettes.

The paper titled “Electronic Cigarette Call to Action,” called for an urgent action to control e-cigarettes to protect children, as well as non-smokers and minimize health harms to the population.

The statement said, according to the report, e-cigarettes as consumer products had not shown to be effective for quitting tobacco use at the population level and that instead, alarming evidence has emerged on adverse population health effects.

The paper said the global market of electronic cigarettes, vapes and other new and emerging products were swiftly expanding with a diverse array of enticing flavours aggressively aimed at children and young people.

The technical paper said urgent and resolute action by countries was imperative to shield children from the severe health repercussions associated with these products.

The statement said the report also warned that since e-cigarettes were tobacco products that deliver nicotine, which was highly addictive and toxic substance, they may pose the risk that many of today’s youth who were using e-cigarettes could become tomorrow’s cigarette smokers to continue to feed their nicotine addiction.

“Moreover, nicotine exposure can harm brain development in ways that may affect the neurological development and mental health of children and adolescents,” it stated.

The statement said the call to action on e-cigarettes by WHO noted that urgent and strong decisive action to prevent uptake of e-cigarettes, which were harmful to health, should be taken to protect children, as well as non-smokers and minimize health harms to the population.

“The VALD Ghana supports the WHO timely call to action on electronic cigarette uptake among children and young people in Ghana,” it stated.

The statement said there was disturbing statistics in the surge of the consumption of e-cigarette among young persons among the ages between 16 and 19 in countries like Canada and United Kingdom, which had ignited widespread concerns.

“E-cigarettes contain hazardous chemicals such as acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde – substances known to contribute to NCDs like lung diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases,” it stated and that the WHO had warned that the health risks associated with e-cigarette use were not to be underestimated.

The statement said recent reports from VALD Ghana indicated that the unregulated use of e-cigarettes for cessation purposes in Ghana has led to misuse and harm to users.

“VALD Ghana has raised concerns about the government’s approach of taxing electronic cigarette as part of efforts to raise revenue from excise taxes without recourse to public health concerns.

 “The Ghana’s Public Health Act (Act 851) prescribes non-tobacco product (electronic cigarette) for cessation purposes only and not for recreation. As it stands now electronic cigarettes are currently available everywhere, especially through online sales,” the statement indicated.

It said imposing taxes on e-cigarette products was one strategy that could be used to limit youth access to e-cigarettes.

“Increasing the prices of these products will dissuade a portion of youth use since they are disproportionately affected by price increase because of their lower purchasing power,” it stated.

The statement said it had been well established that the strategy worked with conventional tobacco products and that; “we can reasonably expect that it would be effective for e-cigarettes as well. Taxation not only could reduce e-cigarette use among youth but also generate revenue for the government.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, warns of the early recruitment of children into e-cigarette use and subsequent nicotine addiction.

“He urges countries to implement stringent measures to safeguard citizens, particularly the youth, against this peril. The tobacco industry’s profit-driven motives mislead policies by funding false claims of harm reduction,” the statement added.

It said: “We are by this statement calling on the Government through the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority and other key stakeholders to see this as an urgent national priority.

“Countries are taking bold steps aimed at protecting the health rights of their citizens, especially children and young people who are the target of the tobacco and other harm industries.

“VALD Ghana in solidarity with other CSOs call for a national ban on electronic cigarette and other new and emerging products being fuelled by the tobacco industry and their allies as a safer alternative to traditional cigarette. Many countries have taken the lead to ban these products and Ghana can do same..”

The statement said: “All of us working to advance the great cause of global health should not waiver in our commitment to support the development of healthy societies.

“In doing so, we should keep in mind that tobacco use is the world’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than seven million people per year.

“Moving forward, we should be guided by the lessons from history and available scientific evidence and redouble our efforts to support globally the full implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s demand and supply reduction measures to control tobacco use in all its forms, including e-cigarettes.”

Source: GNA

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