The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organization has launched a 2020 Tobacco Industry Interferences Index Report- Ghana with a call on government to announce in its 2021 budget tax increases on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and other unhealthy products.
It stated that since 2015, there had not been tax increases on tobacco products thus making it cheap in the market for the youth and vulnerable groups to patronize to the detriment of their health.
The Report, the first of its kind presents findings on tobacco industry interference in Ghana government’s attempt to develop policies, measures and the overall implementation of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
It highlighted on issues of transparency in dealing with tobacco industry, conflict of interest among government appointee or officials, and the use of corporate social responsibility initiatives to interfere with government policy regulation or implementation to control the use of tobacco in the country.
Others were the role of the tobacco industry actors in policy development, the potential of government policies to facilitate tobacco industry trade or market, the situations of unnecessary interaction between government officials and tobacco industry players and existing preventive measures by the government to control the tobacco industry.
The survey was aimed at exposing the weakness in the implementation of the Ghana Tobacco Control Law since its passage in 2012 and to show the affordability, accessibility, and the exposure of the harmful products such as tobacco, alcoholic beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages to kids and vulnerable groups.
Making a presentation at the launch of the Report, Mr Labram Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD said the first Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index showed that efforts made by governments to tackle tobacco industry interference was progressing slowly and were far from satisfactory.
He said: “The lower the score, the lower the overall level of interference, and Ghana is not doing badly with the score of 58 on the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020.”
Mr Musah implored the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to ensure the effective implementation of the Tobacco Control law, especially the section that protects minors from smoking and exposure to tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.
He said: “It is clear from the findings that prices of tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages are among the cheapest products sold on the Ghanaian market today.
“As low as 20 pesewas one can buy a cigarette, as low as 50 pesewas to 1 cedi one can buy alcohol in sachet and tot. These show how weak we are as a nation, where public health and safety is of no importance anymore,” Mr Musah.
He said: “Many countries are adopting tax measures as the most cost-effective means to control and reduce the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages alongside other public health measures to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs).”
He said Shisha was now the new trend as FDA and the Ministry of Health had allowed the influx of these new deadly products and the harm it brings to most of the youth, especially those at the universities despite the numerous calls to ban it.
Mr Musah said: “Countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and many other countries are planning to ban shisha, but in Ghana, we are trying to find a way to regulate it.”
He said countries that scored well on the Global Tobacco Index have prevailed against tobacco industry interference by implementing measures to protect themselves, adding; “This underscores the need for the whole government’s commitment to withstand industry interference and better protect tobacco control measures.
“It’s important to note that Ghana have made some progress- passed a tobacco control law and regulation, adopted picture health warning on tobacco packages among others,” he said.