The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organisation, has commended the Food and Drugs Authority, (FDA) for the implementation of pictorial health warning on cigarette packages.
It expressed gratitude to the FDA for keeping to its commitment to introducing the pictorial warnings on Ghana’s cigarette packages.
The VALD, which is a non-governmental organisation into curbing the use of tobacco in the country, gave the commendation in a statement signed by Mr Labram Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD, and the National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday.
It said the introduction of pictorial warnings on tobacco products was highly essential to reaching smokers with low education and literacy and would help to reduce disparities in health knowledge. The statement said health warnings on tobacco packages constituted an important method to informing and educating the public about the harms of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
“It is important to also note that Ghana has many languages, out of which only nine are spoken and written in schools, as such rolling out cigarettes in Ghana with picture warnings will enable smokers to appreciate the dangers associated with smoking, other than text only warning, which previously appeared on Ghana’s tobacco packs,” it said.
The statement said currently, pictorial warnings on tobacco packages had been adopted and implemented by many African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Senegal, and Seychelles.
It said health messages on tobacco packages delivered important information directly to smokers. “Pictorial warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage non-smokers from starting and keep ex-smokers from starting again,” the statement said.
It said pictorial health warnings contributed in the long-term to reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, hence improving public health.The Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act of 2012 (Act 851) and Tobacco Control Regulations of 2016 (LI 2247) mandates the tobacco industries to implement pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products packages in Ghana within 18 months after the FDA has made the source documents containing the health warnings.
In April 2017, the FDA made the source documents available to the tobacco industry to work towards implementing the pictures on the cigarette packages. The timeline for the implementation of the health warnings, as approved at a tobacco control stakeholders meeting in 2017, indicated that by October 1, 2018, the tobacco industry must discontinue sale of old tobacco products without approved graphic or pictorial health warnings.
Ghana started the implementation of text only warning on cigarette packages in 2010. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows a downward trend in smoking among junior high school (JHS) students; 3.6 per cent smoked cigarette in 2009 while 2.8 per cent smoked same in 2017.
However 5.3 per cent of the JHS students smoke shisha higher than traditional cigarettes in 2017. The VALD expressed the hope that with the introduction of pictures on the cigarette packages, the smoking prevalence would reduce while in coming days the FDA would work with relevant stakeholders to put in appropriate monitoring framework to effectively monitor the implementation.
It lauded the Ministry of Health, FDA, Ghana Health Service, the World Health Organisation country office, the Global Tobacco Control Community, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and other stakeholders who contributed to the successful introduction of the pictorial health warnings.