Mrs Faustina Alima of the School Health Education Programme (SHEP) of the Ministry of Education has said tobacco use is still the leading cause death in the world.
She said unlike HIV and AIDs related deaths which have reduced in some parts of the world, tobacco related deaths keep rising and by 2020 it could reach the 10 million mark.
“Seventy per cent of these deaths are expected to occur in the developing countries, as the tobacco industries are steadily relocating to third world countries due to tighter regulations in the developed ones,” she said.
Mrs Alima said this during a community forum attended by opinion leaders, teachers, pupils of Bubiashie Primary School at Bubiashie, a suburb of Accra.
With support from the Norwegian Cancer Society, the forum was organised by the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) which campaigns against tobacco use and the enforcement of the section six of the Public Health Act, (Act 851).
Mrs Alima said African countries had the weakest tobacco regulatory and policy frameworks and there was the expectation that tobacco-related fatalities could rise.
“Fortunately for Ghana, however, we have a law in place banning public smoking and we must commend the efforts of all who worked tirelessly to make the law possible,” she said.
Mrs Alima said “the tobacco’s future victims are today’s children because the use of the product is initiated at the childhood level and it continues through adolescence and adulthood.
She said the increase in tobacco-related diseases is a problem and a drain on the impoverished public health services hence the need for control efforts to be more comprehensive, broad-based and youth focused.
“Reports reaching us from our schools indicate the increasing use of tobacco among the youth in various forms,” she said, adding that besides initiating the control measures there should be a consistent surveillance system which would provide concrete data for further action.
Mrs Alima said the effort of SHEP in distributing “No Smoking” leaflets and posters with key messages on dangers of smoking pasted on school walls and classrooms was a step in the right direction in the fight against tobacco use.
Mr Julius Azumah, Okaikoi South Sub-Metro Director, said it was unfortunate that funds meant to be invested in good assets and provision of family needs are spent in curing preventable diseases.
What is very ironic, he said, is that it is the poor majority who are often the main category in the society indulging themselves in tobacco use.”
“Do not allow anybody to deceive you to think that when you smoke cigarette then you are more enlightened. It is a big liar,” he told the gathering.
Mr Labran Musah, Programme Director of VALD, said the law against tobacco use in public places is an infant one which came into being about a year ago hence the need for the awareness creation programmes.
Mrs Christiana Tetteh, Headmistress of the Bubiashie Junior Higher School, expressed gratitude to VALD for organising the forum to educate the pupils on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking.