South Africa / Johannesburg, Aug 12, GNA – Ms Patricia Lambert, Director of International Legal Consortium for Campaign for Tobacco - Free Kids, has urged the Government of Ghana to consider the health of her people and speed up the tobacco control legislation.
“Government has the sovereign right and duty to protect the life of all citizens” she stated.
Ms Lambert was speaking at an international media capacity building workshop in Johannesburg on Saturday, to sharpen the media’s efforts to respond to the growing threats of tobacco use in Africa.
The workshop is expected to equip the media to generate awareness of the increasing health burden in the various countries in Africa due to the damaging effects of tobacco products consumption.
The workshop was organized by Health-e, a media organization in South Africa, in collaboration with Campaign for Tobacco - Free Kids, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO).
Journalist will also be given the modus operandi of the tobacco industry as it increasingly focuses on Africa as a lucrative market, as well as the myths peddled around tobacco farming.
Ms Lambert, who also granted an exclusive interview to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said: “Ghana’s delay in passing the legislation was strange.”
She noted that it took civil society organizations a tough struggle to put pressure on government before the law was given its first reading in parliament recently.
Ms Lambert said Ghana, by ratifying the Framework on the Convention for the Control of Tobacco (FCTC), had promised to enact regulations in enforcing the treaty.
She said Africa had reached the turning point in the implementation of the FCTC, which African negotiators had worked hard to bring to being.
She noted that so far, 46 African countries had ratified the treaty except Zimbabwe, Ethiopia Cote d’ Ivoire Zambia and Malawi.
According to her the difficulty Malawi and Zimbabwe faced was the fear that their tobacco business would nosedive if they ratify the treaty.
“This is not true,” she said.
She indicated that countries like China that had huge tobacco industries wanted to depend on Africa for their raw materials.
“Tobacco control is not about protecting the farmers but protecting the health of the people, especially the young ones, to stop smoking and ensuring that non smokers stay away from smoking” she said.
She said the popular strategies of tobacco companies was to aggressively make smoking look glamorous and exciting, through huge bill boards, citing Tanzania as an example, where gigantic bill boards portrayed smoking as glamorous.
Another strategy by the tobacco companies, according to Ms Lambert, was the adoption of social media to reach out for young ones through face book, twitter, blogs and mobile phones.
She said in Nigeria, the youth were lured to parties, only to be introduced to smoking by offering them packets of free cigarette to smoke.
Asked why World Health Organisation could not ban the tobacco industries totally, Ms Lambert explained that in the 1920s, when there was a ban on the production of alcohol in America for moral reasons, it only gave rise to smuggling, organized crime, corruption and the emergence of cartels and mafias, who illicitly violated the ban.
“What needs to be done is to make the product very expensive, through high taxes to generate more revenue to the government and discourage people from smoking” she said.
She called on African governments to adopt pictorial warnings against the use of tobacco because of the language multiplicity in Africa and the problem of most Africans, who were functionally illiterate.
Dr Devon Moodley of the Donald Gorden Medical Centre, South Africa, said tobacco contains 4000 destructive chemicals that were not always captured in the flamboyant tobacco adverts.
He indicated that smoking was the single largest cause of lung cancer, which according to him, occurred when the genes in the body were damaged.
He noted that more than 70 percent of smokers desired to quit but only five percent were able to succeed because it is addictive and was difficult to quit.
Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Executive Director of National Council Against Smoking said governments must not allow the youth to die from smoking but must help them to make good choices, especially against the use of tobacco.
He noted however that, addicted tobacco users needed help, adding that, in South Africa addicted smokers were assisted through telephone counselling services and called on other countries to do same.