NGOs call on Parliament to hasten the passage of the Public Health Bill

Two non-governmental organisations, the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and Coalition on the Tobacco Control Bill, have called on Parliament to enact a strong and formidable law on tobacco control measures to protect the lives of the people.

They also appealed for the speedy passage of the Public Health Bill and avoid attempts of the tobacco industry in interfering in the making of public health policy, because it would not only affect the well-being of Ghana but was also a breach of article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Mr Issah Ali, Executive Director of VALD who made the call in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said Ghana had failed to meet its obligations on article 8, 13 and 5.2 of the FCTC, deadline for which fell on February 27, 2010.

He said Ghana should have implemented a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, ban smoking in public places and pass comprehensive tobacco control legislation five years after ratifying the FCTC.

Mr Ali said although Ghana was making a headway in the process of enacting laws against tobacco, its urgency was unfortunately relegated.

‘Till it happens to a close relation or a friend, one might never realize how close and deadly the tobacco canker is to all of us. However, much as one might wish never to believe tobacco is dangerous especially to the secondhand smoker, the evidence is glaring and therefore must be curbed earnestly before it degenerates.”

The Executive Director stressed that the FCTC did not recognize the tobacco industry in the discussion of public health polices and therefore their participation in Ghana’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Health’s public health hearings on the Bill was a violation of the Convention.

He cautioned the legislature to be on the lookout for any attempt of the tobacco industry to interfere with public health policy.

“We should be wary because unlike other national health threats such as cholera, malaria, maternal mortality, among others, this menace has multinational public relations firms well established promoters and lobbyists who may not leave anything to chance in interfering with public health policies,” he noted.

Some countries have fallen prey to the tobacco industry interference in their public health policy, thereby making their tobacco control legislations weak and ineffective and this should be a wakeup call to Ghanaian policy makers, he urged.

Mr Ali stated, “The Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Bill when passed will mandate the implementation of pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs to enable smokers and non-smokers with low level of formal education to understand the hazardous effect of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

He indicated that countries such as Mauritius, Egypt, and Djibouti, among others in Africa, have implemented a pictorial and text health warning covering on their tobacco pack. GNA

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