Ghana: Parliament Passes Anti-Tobacco Bill
By Henry Neondo
ACCRA---Africa Tobacco Control Consortium Monday applauded the Ghanaian Parliament on the passage of the country's Public Health Bill. The Bill contains Tobacco Control Measures described by anti-tobacco lobby groups as demonstrating respect for the health of every citizen.
"While congratulating the Ghana Parliament, we wish to urge the President to sustain this momentum by signing this bill into law without delays as an indication of his commitment to ensuring that the will of the people prevails. This will further reinforce the leadership position that Ghana has taken in Africa, as a party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), when it signed the treaty in 2005," said Dr. Ebeh Kodjo Fabrice, Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA).
According to the Africa Coordinator of Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Mr. Tih Armstrong Ntiabang, "this bold step by the Ghana parliament in passing the bill, particularly the Sixth Part of the Bill, which is on tobacco control measures, is a clear reflection of the regard that the Ghanaian Government puts on international treaties, and the value it places on the health and well-being of its people". He added that "signing this bill into law by the President without much delays will not only keep Ghana in her leadership role on health matter in the region, it will create the atmosphere for quick implementation of its provision, thereby reducing the burden or tobacco epidemic in the country."
Faced with the devastating effects of the tobacco epidemic, world leaders in 2003 adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a binding international treaty. Today, 175 countries, plus the European Union, are Parties to the FCTC, accounting for almost 90 percent of the world’s population including Ghana.
The Ghana Public Health Bill contains Tobacco Control Measures that prohibits smoking in public places, bans advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco and tobacco products, bans sale of tobacco or tobacco products to underage and mandates the printing of health warnings on tobacco packs.
But how far Ghana will go depends on the tobacco industry players.
A similar move by Kenya in 2006 came to a cropper when the industry rallied against the legislation that banned smoking in public places.
The move by the government of Kenya then was mooted to protect the health of over 5 million addicted to smoking against possible deaths due to smoking and carried a heavy fine against those caught smoking in public.
The then Director of Medical Services (DMS) Dr James Nyikal said tobacco killed some 12,000 Kenyans each year and a public ban would reduce that figure.
According to the law, anyone smoking in offices, bus stations, airports and sports venue faced a fine of 50,000 Kenya shillings ($700; £375) or six months in prison.
Bars and restaurants without separate smoking areas were also affected.
Cigarette manufacturers were to print health warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packets. Prior to introducing the tough law, the government had introduced a 140% tax on cigarettes in 2005.
But while the move by the government was sudden, it was not however full-proof as the industry managed to rally behind it Kenya's 300,000 tobacco farmers, who grow about 20,000 tons a year to oppose the law.
A British America Tobacco's Kenya spokesman sent a protest note to the health ministry asking them to revoke the new directive.
Neighbouring Uganda banned smoking in public places in 2004 but the ban has never been strictly enforced. Tanzania has also outlawed smoking in public places.
Currently, according to World Health Organisation, tobacco is the leading cause of global death and illness, and its use is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. If current patterns continue it will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030. Up to half of the world's more than 1 billion smokers will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease.
ATCC urges other African countries with pending tobacco control legislation in the parliament, or those awaiting presidential assent on their tobacco control bills to follow example of Ghana.
The Africa Tobacco Control Consortium is a coalition of public health organizations focused on preventing a tobacco epidemic in Africa, by assisting national governments and civil society to implement policies that are in line with the requirements of the WHO FCTC, the world’s first public health treaty.
The Consortium is coordinated by the American Cancer Society in partnership with the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).