Civil society organisations (CSOs) in health led by Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) have called on government to come out with explicit commitment and plan to achieve zero prevalence of tobacco use in Ghana.
They further called for a clearly stated government target date within a maximum of two decades to tobacco endgame.
Mr Issah Ali, the Executive Director of VALD, made the call on behalf of the CSOs at a day’s consultative forum on tobacco endgame in Ghana on Wednesday.
He said the concept of the endgame was to assist the government to move from tobacco control to ending the use of the product, stating that; “We have the laws and the structures in place and so the endgame is not an end to itself, but a process.
“We can have 10 years, 15 years or 20 years to plan to end tobacco use. By that time government might have put up all the necessary systems in place. Also, those who are dependant on tobacco trade would have enough time to turn into other businesses.”
He mentioned some of the 15 effective strategies to the endgame as raising taxes, restriction of sales by birth year (example, no one born after a certain date can buy tobacco products), changing product characteristics (reducing nicotine content/increasing pH of cigarettes, reducing non-nicotine components to make tobacco products less/nonaddictive).
He cited some countries like New Zealand, Finland, Bhutan and US, which were using the global best practices to achieve the tobacco endgame.
He said Ghana can succeed in achieving the end to tobacco use and that it was not enough to develop laws but that government should show commitment and strong political will to move to the next stage by investing into programmes, implementation and enforcement.
“We have Tobacco Control Measure (Act 851), Tobacco Control Regulation (2247), the National NCD Strategy (2022), National Tobacco Control Inter-Agency Coordination Committee, Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Tobacco Control,” he stated.
He entreated the government to earmark some portion of the tobacco taxes to carry out programmes to protect the people.
He said the Universal Health Coverage has two components and one was to prevent diseases and that the best way to do that was to ensure that the people do not consume unhealth commodities.
“Tobacco use is one of the unhealthy commodities because if you smoke; you end up with heart diseases, lung cancers, strokes and respiratory diseases so if we want to safeguard or manage the health budget in the country; the best thing is for us to end the consumption of unhealthy products,” he stated.
He urged the CSOs to work hard to help protect the younger generation and the coming generations saying “There is no health benefit in tobacco use.”