Issah Ali – Executive Director of Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) -Ghana

24 Mar 2010

Issah updated pic150pxUpdated: 12/11/2013

Effective tobacco control in Ghana is crucial for the country to drastically reduce death and disease associated with tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, says Issah Ali, Executive Director of Vision for Alternative Development (VALD).

Ali says that effective tobacco control in his country depends on proper implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Tobacco Control Measures of The Public Health Act 2012 (Act 851).

While Ghana’s parliament passed Act 51 into law on 11 July 2012, and President John Dramani Mahama assented to the Act on 9 October 2012, it is yet to be properly implemented.

“Once this happens Ghana will see a reduction in child and youth addiction to tobacco; illicit trade in tobacco products; and diseases caused by smoking (heart attacks, heart disease, mouth disease and lung and oral cancer),” said Ali.

“Ghana’s health facilities cannot cope with diseases caused by tobacco,” he said. “The nation is facing serious challenges dealing with malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child mortality – it will be disastrous to add cancers and other diseases to this list.”

The Act covers key FCTC provisions and also:

• Bans: public smoking; any forms of direct and indirect advertising and sponsorship; and any retail sales.
• Requires: that anyone who manufactures, imports or sells tobacco products must ensure they carry a health warning determined by the Food and Drugs Authority, and display a health warning at tobacco products’ point-of-sale.
• Prevents: any tobacco products to be sold to or used around children.
• Prohibits: the sale of tobacco in health facilities, educational institutions (other than tertiary institutions), amusement centres and other places that may be prescribed by Act.
• Calls for: public education on the dangers of tobacco use plus treatment options for people wishing to quit.
• Urges collaboration: with other countries to prevent illicit trade in tobacco, and the manufacture of counterfeit tobacco products.

According to Ali, implementing Act 851 depends on adequate funding, government commitment and the right infrastructure as required by the FCTC.

Tobacco linked to child addiction

Issah says the Global Youth Tobacco Survey in Ghana clearly links tobacco exposure to tobacco addiction in school children. According to Issah, in regards to these children the survey found that:

• 4.8 per cent smoke cigarettes.
• 17.2 per cent use other tobacco products.
• 16.5 per cent who don’t smoke are likely to try it at some future stage.

In regards to second-hand smoke:

• 21.9 per cent live in homes where others smoke.
• 26.1 per cent have one or more parents who smoke.
• 39.6 per cent think smoke from others is harmful to them.
• 57.2 per cent think smoking should be banned from public places.
• 14.3 per cent tried smoking.

“A WHO report also states that more than 20 per cent of global tuberculosis (TB) incidence may be attributed to smoking and that 2 billion people are infected with TB, which includes people in Ghana,” said Issah.

VALD’s work and successes

VALD is a non-government organization (NGO) that advocates and promotes tobacco control policies and programmes. It also supports community participation in good governance and promotes cultural diversity, peace and development.

In terms of tobacco control, VALD is working on policy development, capacity building, media and public advocacy, material development, coalition building, policies and tobacco industry monitoring.

VALD has achieved many successes like:

• Recognition from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which acknowledged VALD for its outstanding contribution to the advancement of policies and measures contained in the FCTC.
• Gaining commitment from Ghana’s Minister of Heath to submit a draft Tobacco Control Bill to Cabinet and Parliament for adoption.
• Assisting in strengthening some provisions of Tobacco Control Measures of Act 851.

VALD’s challenges

As in many other countries VALD faces many challenges, such as tobacco industry interference in policy formulation and inadequate capacity at both government and civil society level to effectively implement Act 851.

“Lack of in-country funding from both government and private institutions to support tobacco control, inadequate funds for tobacco control groups and logistics such as office equipment to ensure efficient work are also lacking,” said Issah.

For tobacco control to be successful in Ghana, Issah says that strengthening the capacity of tobacco control advocates and government ministries, departments and agencies is essential. .

“The availability of capacity and funds will enable advocates to partner government in implementing and monitoring the implementation of Act 851 and FCTC,” Issah said.

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