Ghana’s Development Agenda Calls for Stronger Tobacco Control Action

19 Jun 2019

A blog by Labram Massawudu Musah, Vision for Alternative Development

His Excellency Mr. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana is Co-Chair of the SDG Advocates along with Her Excellency Ms. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. In this influential role, he has committed to push for smart action and focus in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. His vision for a “Ghana Beyond Aid” promotes self-reliance to raise millions out of poverty, by expanding quality healthcare for all, among other priorities.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of premature mortality in Ghana. Every year, NCDs contribute to approximately 43 percent of all deaths and tobacco use is a major risk factor for the diseases.[1]

Accelerating the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) will increase the ability of the Government of Ghana to prevent these premature deaths.

Achieving the SDGs, the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda and accelerating implementation of the WHO FCTC requires massive amounts of resources. Ghana needs additional sustainable investments in the health sector to drive action on its global commitments.

This is why Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and its partners, Framework Convention Alliance and the Norwegian Cancer Society support calls for implementing high tobacco taxes to bring in additional revenue for Ghana and reduce smoking rates at the same time. Tobacco taxation can help mobilise domestic resources to finance national development priorities.

In 2017, VALD with support from its partners worked to encourage key policymakers and political leaders to demonstrate their commitment to accelerate the implementation of the WHO FCTC and their recognition of tobacco control as essential to NCDs control and prevention in Ghana.

In 2018, ahead of the country’s first participation in the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs, VALD and the Ghana NCD Alliance held a National UN High Level Meeting on NCDs, which brought together the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drugs Authority, the Ghana Health Service, the WHO Representative to Ghana, the Special Advisor to the President on SDGs and the Minister of Planning among others.

Recently, VALD participated in a resource mobilisation forum in which participants shared innovative ideas on how to raise adequate resources to support the 2018 Ghana Budget. VALD’s intervention focused on the need to raise taxes on tobacco, alcohol and other harmful products.

This year, VALD is yet again advocating for an increase in taxes on tobacco products in the Budget Statement. At 13.02% of retail price, Ghana’s excise tax as a percentage of cigarette price can be significantly increased to meet the WHO benchmark of a minimum of 70% of retail price.[2] VALD is also advocating for the introduction of sin taxes on other harmful products to help finance the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Tobacco use shifts household expenditure away from basic needs, including food, education, shelter, and pushes families into poverty and hunger. It causes disproportionate health and socioeconomic challenges for the poor, women, youth and other vulnerable populations.

Every year, more than 5000 Ghanaians are killed by tobacco caused disease and the economic cost amounts to 97 million cedi.[3] The Government of Ghana can save 22,000 lives by 2025 by implementing all of the WHO “Best Buys.”[4]

An important objective of the WHO “Best Buys” is to reduce tobacco use, a major risk factor for NCDs by strengthening the implementation of the tobacco control measures set out in the WHO FCTC.

Since 2005, Ghana is a Party to the WHO FCTC. And, comprehensive tobacco control laws (Public Health Act, 2012 and Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016) put the country in a unique position to take stronger action on tobacco control.

Progress on the SDGs requires that governments, civil society, research and academic institutions and foundations work together towards the voluntary global target of a 25% relative reduction in risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases.[5]

In Ghana, VALD, other civil society actors and partners, key policymakers and institutions will continue their partnerships towards supporting the country’s development agenda, beyond aid.

[1] https://www.who.int/nmh/countries/gha_en.pdf?ua=1
[2] https://tobaccoatlas.org/country/ghana/
[3] https://files.tobaccoatlas.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/ghana-country-facts-en.pdf
[4] https://www.who.int/nmh/countries/gha_en.pdf?ua=1
[5] https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/94384/9789241506236_eng.pdf?sequence=1

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