The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a health based NGO, has expressed its contentment at the passage of the recent Public Health Bill especially on tobacco control measures by parliament.
The Bill is guided by equity, social justice, a holistic health attitude as well as public education and awareness. Other considerations were individual and social responsibilities, rights, informed consent and partnership.
There are provisions on Tobacco Control, Vaccination, Quarantine, Clinical Trials, Food and drugs, Communicable Diseases, Vector Control and Environmental Sanitation.
In Ghana tobacco use is rising steadily especially among the youth. A recent nationwide survey to determine smoking prevalence among school children aged between 12 and 18 showed that about fourteen per cent have used tobacco before, and five per cent are currently smoking cigarettes.
Considering the harmful effects of smoking on and associating smoking with social success, business advancement and sporting activities advertisement on Tobacco were banned worldwide in 2004.
Ghana was among the 192 member states of the World Health Organisation that adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which bans advertising and sponsorships by tobacco companies.
The Convention which Ghana has since ratified enjoins the country to take administrative, legislative and any other means to curb the incidence of smoking and reduce the hazards associated with smoking.
Speaking at a press conference by stakeholders last Thursday in Accra, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health and Member of Parliament for Asawase, Hon. Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, admitted that the passage of the Public Health Bill has been long overdue and attributed it to the various controversies which had characterised the processes leading to its passage.
The event was organised by VALD in collaboration with Ghana Health Service and World Health Organisation (WHO).
He assured that government was committed to ensuring that the Bill becomes law. He believed that the law would help "save people from being infected with communicable diseases associated with passive smoking."
He therefore called on the Ministry of Health, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to ensure full implementation of Act when it became operational.
The Executive Director of VALD, Mr Issah Ali, was grateful to Members of the Health Committee and government for approving the final draft.
"Even though certain institutions like the tobacco industry, some organisations, and even other members of Parliament were vehemently against the passage of this bill, others gave the Bill its full support."
He similarly expressed appreciation to the WHO for their technical and logistical support.
Mr Ali called on government to increase its budgetary allocation for the implementation of the law when it came into force through tax increment on tobacco products imported or smuggled into the country.
On his part, the WHO Country Representative in Ghana, Mr Iddrisa Sow, pledged his outfit's support to government to train enforcement officers who would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the law.
WHO is also ready to support the Government explore areas to increase resources for tobacco control particularly, considering a dedicated LEVY, and NOT a tax, on all tobacco products. Such a levy would be used specifically for health promotion activities including tobacco control.
"WHO is willing and ready, to work in close collaboration with all development partners, Non-Government organisations and the Civil Society, to support the Government to develop regulations as soon as possible particularly in the prohibition of smoking in public places; pictorial health warning on tobacco products; the testing of tobacco and tobacco products; as well as guidelines for treating people addicted to tobacco," Mr Sow promised.