The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), has expressed concern about the continuous tobacco industry interference in public health policies in Ghana and urged government to improve transparency in its engagement with the industry.
It said in a recent global tobacco industry interferences index ranking report, Ghana scored 58 while Uganda, Peru and the United Kingdom scored between 30-39; meaning that the level of industry interference in Ghana was higher than that of countries that ranked below 39.
"The lower the score, the better or fewer industry interference, and globally, interference by the tobacco industry has been widely demonstrated to be a major affront to government's attempts to implement the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Article 5.3," the VALD said.
It said Ghana's Tobacco Industry Regulations; LI 2247 under industry interference stipulates that any interaction between the tobacco industry and the regulator must be strictly limited to tobacco control and enforcement.
A statement copied to the Ghana News Agency by Mr Labram Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD, called on the government to make known any records of lobbyists in the country acting in the interest of the tobacco industry, while developing mandatory policies for the industry to publicly report or declare its corporate social responsibility to the country.
"Government should make full disclosure in the media or website of all activities including revenue and profits, tax exceptions or any privileges the tobacco industry receives; while developing a code of conduct to guide government agencies and officials in engaging the tobacco industry," it said.
The statement said the index ranking report revealed that; "Since the passage of the Tobacco Control Act in 2012, Ghana has not developed a code of conduct for public officials in dealing with the tobacco industry in line with WHO FCTC Article 5.3 and that the gaps in the policies and legislation have the potential to actively promote tobacco industry interference."
It implored the government to develop programmes to regularly train or educate officials and agencies about Article 5.3 of the FCTC, adding that this would equip them with the requisite knowledge to avoid falling prey to the tobacco industry or inadvertently facilitating the activities of the industry to undermine the tobacco control policies in the country.
It called on the Ministry of Finance to regularly review the price of tobacco products, tax regimes and put appropriate measures in place to effectively regulate the affordability and access to tobacco products.
It said for six years (2015-2020) now, government had not made any policy attempt to increase taxes on tobacco products, a situation serving as an incentive to promote the business of the tobacco industry.
"These are indication that government policies support or benefit the trade activities of the tobacco industry in the country for instance; a declaration made by the government to ban the use of shisha in 2018 is yet to take effect.
"The Ghana Health Service made an appeal for the ban of the use of tobacco products in Ghanaian movies is also yet to take effect; while travelers (diplomats) are permitted large quantities of duty-free tobacco products in the country," the statement said.