The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is collaborating with academia to conduct further research into tobacco use to inform the authority on amendments to current regulations on the nicotine substance to safeguard public health in the country.
The authority said the intended amendment of regulations on the control and how and when to use tobacco might further impose restrictions on tobacco use, in line with the FDA’s long-term agenda of a tobacco-free Ghana.
Speaking at a webinar (online forum) to mark this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in Accra, the Head, Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Department (TSAD) of the FDA, Dr Olivia Boateng, said the research and the future amendment of the regulation were to help deliver on the FDA’s long-term goal of a tobacco-free Ghana.
She said in the meantime, the FDA was pursuing rigorous public education on the risk of tobacco use and strict implementation of the laws on tobacco use to protect public health.
She said the Public Health Act, 2012, was the primary tobacco control legislation which governed, among other things, smoking in public places, tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorship, packaging and labelling.
Dr Boateng said the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (LI 2247) entered into force on January 4, 2017 and provided 18 months’ compliance of public smoking restrictions, among other measures.
It also provided 18 months’ compliance of health warnings from the date the FDA issued new health warnings electronically.
Another regulation is smoking in designated public and workplaces. It also prohibits smoking in public transport, except trains and commercial watercraft where there are designated smoking areas.
“On smoked tobacco product packaging, rotating pictorial health warnings must occupy 50 per cent on the front and 60 per cent on the back of the package.
“On smokeless tobacco product packaging, rotating pictorial health warnings must cover 65 per cent on the front and back of packages. Misleading packaging and labelling, including terms such as ‘light’, ‘ultra-light’, ‘mild’ and ‘low tar’ and other such signs are prohibited,” she added.
No Tobacco Day
The WNTD is celebrated around the world on May 31, every year to raise public awareness of the dire implications of the use of tobacco and remind governments of the need to implement stricter regulatory measures to discourage the use of tobacco and tobacco products.
Member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) instituted the day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and diseases it causes.
The theme for this year’s commemoration was: “Protecting the youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use”.
The Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, Mrs Delese Mimi Darko, said the virtual meeting kick-started a year-long nationwide campaign, in collaboration with the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), the media and other stakeholders.
“Tobacco kills more than eight million people globally every year. More than seven million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
“Although tobacco use is often associated with ill-health, disability and death from non-communicable chronic diseases, tobacco smoking is equally associated with an increased risk of death from communicable diseases,” she added.
Mrs Darko said in Ghana, more than 425,200 men, 69,200 women and 2,700 boys smoked cigarette each day, killing about 75 men weekly and making it an ongoing dire public health threat.
“The prevalence in ‘shisha’ use is higher in girls (1.7) than boys (1.6) (Ghana Youth Tobacco Survey, 2017), probably due to the misconception that shisha is a safer alternative.
“To dispel such a notion, an aggressive anti-shisha campaign has been initiated by the (FDA),” she said.
Mrs Darko, however, said Ghana had made significant strides in tobacco use through the continuous enforcement of tobacco control measures and the implementation of pictorial health warnings.