Ghana on Monday 3rd June 2019 joined the rest of the world to celebrate "No Tobacco Day" to increase awareness on the dangers of tobacco smoke to lung health and the fundamental role lungs played in the health and well-being of individuals.
The celebration on the theme: "Tobacco and Lung Health", also aimed at raising awareness on cost-effective and feasible actions that key audiences, including governments and the public could take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
Prior to the official launch event that took place on 3rd June, a series of activities had been carried out to raise awareness and sensitize the general public on the health consequences of the use of tobacco and tobacco products. These included health walks, TV and radio discussions and market storms. These activities were also replicated in other regions of Ghana.
The launch event was also a platform to disseminate the findings of the 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Major findings of the survey revealed that 39.3 per cent of public in public and private Junior High Schools were exposed to tobacco smoke and 71.3 per cent JHS pupils below the ages of 18 had access to tobacco. It said although the tobacco smoking rates declined from 27 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2016, youth from the ages of 13 to 15 years were exposed to tobacco, a situation that made tobacco a public health threat.
Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, the Minister for Health, in a speech read on his behalf noted that Ghana had made a significant progress to reduce tobacco use by effectively enforcing the complementary smoke-free policies through the implementation of the Public Health Act 2012, (Act 851) and the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (LI 2247). He added that Ghana had also recently introduced pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages to effectively communicate the health hazards associated with tobacco use.
"Unfortunately, people continue to die and become sick needlessly, and the costs to society from tobacco use continue to mount," Mr Agyemang Manu said.
The Honourable Minister for Health concluded by saying that the nation and families incurred huge economic burdens by losing both human and financial resources that could have been channelled into investment. He called on individuals, governments and organisations to help stop tobacco smoking and make the world a better place for the unborn generations.
Mrs Mimi Darko, the Chief Executive Officer of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and chairperson for the launch event said that a study by Tobacco Atlas Ghana, has revealed that about 425,200 men, 69,200 women and 2,700 boys smoked cigarettes each day, while about 75 men die weekly by smoking tobacco.
"The GYTS findings further depicts that the prevalence in shisha use is higher in girls than in boys, due to the misconception that shisha was a safer alternative," she said'.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Honourable Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah shared a few thoughts about shisha use by boys and girls in his constituency, which was a major cause for concern. He was of the view that if this menace is not controlled, these girls would grow up and give birth to children with psychosocial and cognitive disabilities which will not augur well for the future of this country.
Dr. Owen Kaluwa, the World Health Organisation representative to Ghana, said tobacco smoke was dangerous as it contained about 69 chemicals that were known to cause cancer. He stated that in 2018 alone, a total of over 39,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Africa and close to 38,000 deaths occurred. Consequently, about 16500 children worldwide die before age five as a result of exposure to second- hand tobacco smoke which caused pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.
Dr Kaluwa lauded Ghana for implementing the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control and also for ratifying the protocol on illicit trade of tobacco products.
He urged the government to adopt and enforce tobacco-control policies aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco and promoting tobacco cessation.
"My final message to every Ghanaian is that if you do not smoke; plan never to take up this bad habit.
If you smoke, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health and if you have stopped smoking do not start again" he concluded.