Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) Ghana has officially launched the findings of a rapid study on tobacco industry interference and the passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023.
According to VALD Ghana, the tobacco industry has a history of interfering with public health policies, particularly regarding tobacco taxation.
The recent passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Act, 2023 witnessed the industry and its affiliated organizations employing various strategies to hinder the passage of the Act.
Thus, policies for the control of tobacco use, including tobacco taxation, have been recommended by the ECOWAS and WHO as cost-effective interventions for preventing and controlling NCDs.
It is worth noting, however, that the process that led to the enactment of Act 1093 was not without intervention from the tobacco industry. This prompted VALD Ghana to research and detail the tobacco industry’s methods and techniques for interfering with the process.
Speaking at the launch, Executive Director of Programmes for VALD Ghana, Labram Musah, reechoed VALD-Ghana’s commitment to ensuring public health is protected and safeguarded from industry interference in public health policies.
“It’s the only legal product that kills its user when they use it as prescribed by the producer (tobacco industry).
- Tobacco use causes 8 million deaths worldwide (WHO 2023) and 600,000 deaths from secondhand smoke.
- The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) currently boost of 183 countries who are signatories.
- Smoking prevalence in the African region remains the lowest among all WHO regions (5-10%).
- Progress in the African continent has been slow with modest achievement
o Region experiencing some of the highest rates of increase in the number of tobacco users.
- WHO African Region accounts for 18.2% of the global area under tobacco cultivation and 11.4% of tobacco leaf growing worldwide.
Ghana passed a tobacco control law called the Tobacco Control Measure within the Public Health Act (Act 851) in 2012 and subsequently passed the TC regulations in 2017.
Key provisions include banning smoking in public places, banning sales to and by minors, banning advertisements, and introducing health warnings on tobacco packages. Since Tobacco kills 6300 people in Ghana today,” he disclosed.
More so, Act 1093 was faced with multiple degrees of interference notably from the tobacco, alcohol, and SSBs industry.
According to him, they brought forth old industry arguments they have made for years to gain public support.
Stressing that the government is overburdening the people with taxes, which will also increase unemployment.
Again, they argued that the taxes would lead to illicit trade in tobacco products. They claimed the government is insensitive to businesses.
“We want to identify some key strategies, tactics, and activities undertaken by the tobacco industry and their allied organization aimed to delay, divert attention, and stop the passage of the Act, especially during the passage and implementation of the Excise Duty Amendment Act.
Not taking cognizance of that fact that the Act is essential for safeguarding public health and the integrity of our tax system,” Mr. Labram Musah emphasized.
To prevent the tobacco industry from undermining the future, tobacco control efforts and implementing current policies, the study said, must be pursued.
To prevent the tobacco industry from undermining future tobacco control efforts and the implementation of current policies, VALD has made the following recommendations:
- The Ministry of Health (MOH) should implement a robust code of conduct to safeguard public health policies from industry interference.
- Stakeholders including MoH, MoF, GRA, FDA, WHO Ghana, and CSOs should urgently meet to discuss and review the inclusion of e-cigarettes as an excisable product which goes contrary to the Public Health Act (Act 851).
- Through relevant stakeholders, the government should facilitate the development of a Ghana-specific industry argument and public health responses to counter the arguments.
- The MOH and its agencies must increase and regularize consistent nationwide public education campaigns in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to raise awareness on the dangers of consuming tobacco products and the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines.
- Civil Society Organizations should alert and engage with the Ministry of Finance (MOF), MOH, and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health plus other influential stakeholders; highlighting the activities of the industry which contravene WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines.
- MOH should facilitate inter-agency collaboration among government and non-government stakeholders to strengthen the enforcement and implementation of existing tobacco control measures and regulations in Ghana.
- CSOs led by VALD and identified expert researchers should initiate and undertake further research to unveil the gains of industry-allied and front groups from prioritizing industry interests over public health benefits.
Source: Isaac Kofi Dzokpo