Tobacco Control Bill Finally In Parliament

Sun, 24 Jul 2011 Source: Kingson, Jeorge Wilson

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

After about seven years of intense lobbying and agitation for tobacco control legislation for Ghana, minister for Health, Joseph Yeileh Chireh, has finally presented the draft legislation on the Tobacco Control Bill for the consideration of Parliament.

The Bill which forms part of the enlarged Public Health Bill (PHB) went through first reading on the floor of Parliament last Friday, July 22, 2011 with the Speaker of the House, Justice Joyce Bamford-Addo referring it to the select committee on Health for consideration recommendation.

Parliament adjourned last Friday and is expected to reconvene in late October 2011. Chairman of the Committee, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed, told journalists in Parliament last week the presentation of the bill was long expected and that now that it has come they will treat it with the urgency it deserves.

Following this revelation it is expected that the Public Health Bill will go through the necessary stages and passed in the next meeting beginning in October.

Meanwhile, Civil Society has hailed the news of the presentation of the bill to parliament. They claim the centre of their campaign now will be towards Parliament, specifically with the Health Committee and the entire Members.

Chairman of the African Tobacco Control Alliance, Issah Ali, who is also the executive director of Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) who was present in parliament to witness the presentation of the bill said “We strongly support the vision of the Chairman of the Committee, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak to prioritize the Committee’s consideration of the Bill. This shows that the committee and to some large extent Parliament has the interest of Ghanaians at heart when it comes to ensuring the protection of their health. I will like to urge him to go all out to ensure the passage of the bill into law soon”

He appealed to stakeholders to engage with Members of Parliament regularly to know the status of the bill so as to ensure speedy passage of bill into law.

When finally passed the law will among others ban Smoking in public places, ban tobacco advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship, Prohibit young people under the age of 21 from buying and selling tobacco products and mandate the printing of Pictorial Health Warnings on tobacco packs to cover over 70% of the principal display areas.

To effectively implement the tobacco control Act, the Coalition on Tobacco Control (CTC) including VALD, Media Alliance in Tobacco Control (MATCO), Community Health Support Team, and other allies are calling on government to increase taxes on tobacco products to finance the implementation of the tobacco legislations and its action plans.

Columnist: Kingson, Jeorge Wilson