General News Tue, 1 Jun 2010

Panellists call for the protection of girls and women from tobacco use

Accra, May 31, GNA - This year's World No Tobacco Day was launched o n Monday to draw attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towa rds girls and women who have become targets of tobacco companies.

Speakers at the launch under the theme: "Gender and Tobacco with Emphasis on Marketing to Women," called for the protection of girls and women from tobacco use and implementation of the ban on smoking in public

places to ensure a 100 per cent smoke free environment. They highlighted the need for the nearly 168 parties to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in accordance with their constitutions or constitutional principles. Tobacco continues to be one of the biggest public health threats killing a person every second with eight out of every 10 smokers living i n developing countries.

According to the WHO, women who smoked were likely to be infertile a nd maternal smoking during pregnancy increased the risks of premature delive ry, still births, newborn deaths and may cause reduction in breast milk. It also increases women's risk to many types of cancers including mouth, lung, bladder, kidney and cervical cancers. They said equally deadly was the exposure to second hand smoke daily in homes, at workplaces, restaurants and the environment and called for a st op to the practice to ensure good health.

Health Minister, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor said the much awaited draft bil l on tobacco was before Cabinet and after fine tuning and the legalities on

the definition of a public place done explicitly, it would be put before Parliament for passage. He said though it was the Ministry's wish to have the bill passed, i t was not responsible for the legalities which was the work of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General.

Dr Kunbuor said smokers needed help and not condemnation and noted t hat tobacco products should be made less affordable and if possible banned altogether. Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs,

said though in the past tobacco use was mostly by men, it was unfortunate

that statistics on women falling prey to tobacco use was on the increase especially in developing countries. She attributed the increase to low pricing, peer pressure, deceptive

advertising and promotion from tobacco companies.

Mrs Azumah-Mensah said in the interim, while awaiting the passage of

the bill, the media and all stakeholders should put their hands on deck i n the campaign against tobacco use, its control and eliminate the looming public health catastrophe. Alhaji Mustapha Ahmed, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and

Housing, said out of the world's one billion smoker population, 200 milli on were women and out of the five million annual deaths due to tobacco 1.5 million were women. He noted that it was imperative to protect women from the harm and marketing target of the tobacco industry. Alhaji Ahmed, also the Chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee on

Health, was hopeful that passage of the bill would keep Ghana out of the web of tobacco and its related consequences.

Dr Daniel Keterz, WHO representative in Ghana, said the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was an international treaty enacted in 2005 and called on governments to impose comprehensive ban on all tobacco

advertising and sponsorship, smoking in public places and protection of women from second hand smoke especially in countries where women felt powerless to do so. He said tobacco epidemic must be stopped and called on government, health partners and civil society to come together to address the global epidemic.

Source: GNA