VALD calls for support for tobacco control initiatives

Accra, Sept. 3, GNA – The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organisation has called on stakeholders to rally support for tobacco control initiatives to reduce the crime rate in tobacco trade and increase revenue for health and development.

That would help in reducing tobacco-related diseases and deaths.

Mr Labram Musah, the Director of Programmes of VALD made the call in an address at the second Tobacco Control Inter-Agency meeting on the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in tobacco products held in Accra.

The meeting was to facilitate discussions on legislative framework for the implementation of the protocol, organized by VALD in collaboration with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).

Mr Musah said the reason for the illicit trade protocol was clear that; “Recognising the enormity of illicit trade in tobacco products, the international community came together to draw up the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products as well as provide guidance on the development of comprehensive strategies to address the problem.”

“Currently many countries in the African region had started requiring picture health warning on tobacco products and we are happy to also note Ghana is among those countries requiring pictures on their pack. Not forgetting the tax stamps being implemented by the Ghana Revenue Authority,” he stated.

Mr Musah said it was one excellent effort to control illicit trade, that had exposed the weaknesses at the country’s borders, adding that: “We hope that there will be a lot more consultation on the way forward in regards shisha in Ghana.”

He recommended to the Ministry of Health and the FDA) to resuscitate the Tobacco Control Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee (TCIACC) to help reduce the impact of tobacco in Ghana from all aspects.

“Imagine a lethal and deadly product with legitimacy to kill, now being adulterated/polluted – your guess is as good as mine … more deaths and disability, so illicit tobacco must be dealt with head on,” he said.

Dr Olivia Boateng, the Head of Tobacco and Substances Abuse of the FDA and the Focal Person for Tobacco Control – Ghana, said as a country, Ghana had made significant strides in tobacco control through the various smoke free policies outlined in the Part Six of the Public Health Act 2012, (ACT 851).

“However, much effort is continually required in counteracting the infiltration of illicit tobacco in Ghana and success can only be attained with the concerted efforts of the developmental partners, CSOs and stakeholders,” she said.

Dr Boateng said as a regulator, the FDA was represented at all border posts of the country to intercept and seize all illicit tobacco products intended for the Ghanaian market.

“The Authority also oversees the registration of tobacco companies, tobacco imports, sale and supply through inspections and other monitoring activities. Various requirements have also been set to enhance the easy identification of licit tobacco products on the market,” she said.

“These are all measures adopted to control the infiltration of our market with illicit tobacco products. For example, tobacco product labelling intended for the Ghanaian market should include, ‘For Sale in Ghana only’, emission statements and pictorial health warnings validated for use in Ghana.

Although all these measures are in place to curb illicit trade, there have been setbacks in the control of the tobacco product supply chain; most especially in the three northern regions where there have been records of tobacco product smuggling, she stated.

Dr Boateng expressed the hope that the implementation of the protocol would help address some of the challenges and advance the successes of the country in the fight against tobacco use.

She commended the VALD for co-hosting the meeting and the WHO and other stakeholders in their continuous support to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.