General News Fri, 29 May 2009

Anti-tobacco law gains support

Accra, May 29, GNA - A report on a survey, to assess the levels of Second Hand Smoke (SHS) in selected places, has indicated that 80 per cent of workers in smoking and non-smoking establishments were in favour of smoke-free laws, citing health as a reason.

The report said even though all smoking venues, except one, had ventilation systems, 96 per cent had Particulate Matter of 2.5 level, which fell into hazardous category of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index.

According to Mr Winfred Agbenyikey, who conducted the research, the ventilation system cannot protect people from SHS exposure. He said the study was conducted to measure the extent of pollution caused by SHS exposure to workers and patrons in selected indoor public places.

Presenting a Paper at a day's seminar on the theme: "Ban on Smoking in Public Places," for senior staff of the EPA in Accra on Thursday, he said bar owners interviewed claimed customers' preference and concerns over loss of revenue as their reason for allowing smoking in their establishments.

He, however, noted that owners of non-smoking locations, which had gone smoke-free voluntarily, six months before the study, reported a hike in attendance and increased revenue after the ban.

Mr Agbenyikey noted that even though there had been no studies in Ghana to indicate that a smoke-free environment in public places, led to reduced patronage and hence a decrease in revenue for owners, studies in the USA and Ireland had proved that this was totally untrue. Mr Benjamin Apelberg of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said the evidence of causation of adverse effects of exposure to second hand smoke, caused lung cancer and heart diseases in adults and exacerbation of asthma, chronic respiratory illness, reduced lung function growth and middle year diseases in children. Documents, he said, went beyond any doubt that second hand smoke harmed people's health, adding that in the course of the past 20 years, the scientific community had reached consensus that only elimination of smoking protects non-smokers from inhaling second hand smoke. According to him, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, had indicated that "at present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity". He called for the need to document the distribution of exposure and smoke-free policies and monitor trends in buildings, cities, and regions.


Dr Akwasi Osei, Acting Chief Psychiatrist, said emphasis had been placed on tobacco because it was largely accepted that cannabis was very harmful, thus unfortunately pushing the harmful effects of tobacco to the background.

He said experience had shown that some of the cost effective tobacco control measures, including high tobacco tax, ban on direct and indirect tobacco adverting, smoke-free environment in all public places, workplaces and large clear graphic health messages on tobacco packaging, had worked.

According to Mrs Edith Wellington, Focal Person on Tobacco Control, Ghana Health Service (GHS), said Ghana had made modest progress in control of tobacco use by signing and ratifying the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and is one of the first 40 contracting parties, among others. She said the next major achievement would be the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill, which was still pending in the Ministry of Health, awaiting cabinet consideration.

Mrs Wellington noted that some of the challenges were resource allocation to extend tobacco control activities to all the 10 regions of Ghana, determining new approaches to ensure continued success in cessation, prevention and protection and making tobacco control a priority area, as other health areas such as Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS. She called for the political will to carry out tobacco control programmes for the passage of the bill. Ms Sophia Twum-Barima, Communications Officer of the WHO, who gave highlights on the FCTC, said the convention was the first public health treaty initiated by the WHO.

She said negotiations began in October 1999 and ended in March 2003 and were open for signature and ratification, adding that the objective of the FCTC was to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. Mr Samuel Anku, Deputy Director of EPA, said over the years the GHS and stakeholders including EPA had consulted, discussed and prepared grounds for the ban on smoking in public places and called for commitment by all stakeholders in the areas of public education, sensitization and broader consultation on the matter. "As we strive to protect lives and the environment, it is my wish that this programme will send strong signals to all of us, as we make frantic efforts to ban use of tobacco in public places," he said. 29 May 09

Source: GNA