The world is observing today as ‘No Tobacco Day’. It is a day set aside by the World Health Organisation, W.H.O to encourage smokers to quit smoking and also discourage others not to start it. This has become increasingly necessary primarily due to the fast manner tobacco is ruining the lives of people around the world. It brings to global attention the tobacco epidemic and the avoidable and unnecessary death and diseases associated with it. This is done through public education on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, measures by WHO to curb the tobacco epidemic, and what is expected of individuals too in terms of their right to health, healthy living and to protect future generations.
Tobacco use especially cigarette became more popular when special tactics of advertising targeting all categories of people were employed. Cigarette manufacturers devised means that targeted the youth, women, the rich and the poor, indeed people of all social and economic status to love the use of tobacco. There were even some adverts targeting medical practitioners who are aware of the dangers in smoking. This was done in all forms of media and with the power of the media, many people resorted to the harmful use of tobacco.
Smokeless tobacco, Hookahs popularly known as shisha, Flavored little cigars, E-cigarettes, are among the new methods being used to attract people to smoke. But research has shown that an hour of continuous use of hooker is equivalent to more than a 100 sticks of cigarette smoked. It is therefore not any safe method of smoking.
The WHO estimates that today, nearly seven million people are killed by the use of tobacco annually, while about six hundred thousand others also die each year from exposing to second-hand smoke. Tobacco use also costs households and governments more than 1.4 trillion dollars through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity. This is not only alarming but also a serious threat to holistic development. It is in this regard that the WHO wants the implementation of strong tobacco control measures. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.
Indeed the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship are one of the most effective ways of reducing tobacco consumption. As more countries make progress towards implementing complete ban, the tobacco industry is increasingly using tactics such as brand extension, product placement and stealth marketing to sell its products. In most parts of the world tobacco advertising is now one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing.
In Ghana, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) the body mandated by the Tobacco Control Provisions in Part six of the Public Health Act 2012 (Act 851) to regulate the use of tobacco in Ghana has instituted measures to address this challenge. Currently the government, has passed a new legislative instrument (L.I 2247) to back this purpose and empower the FDA to carry out its mandate in order to reduce continually and substantially, the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke to prevent health hazards associated with tobacco use. For instance the authority is insisting that warning images are inscribed on cigarette packages along side the texts to make it health warnings on cigarette boxes more prominent than ever. This will make people more aware of the harm in smoking. It is now known that the effective package messages reduce attractiveness of packaging to tobacco users, encourages smokers to quit and empower the youth to say no to tobacco.
Health warnings that include pictures have been largely encouraged as they have been shown to be more effective since they are more likely to be noticed, critical in communicating health risks to larger number of people who cannot read. The introduction of these warnings is expected to have significant public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, save lives, increase life expectancy and lower medical costs.
BY: NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT LONDON-UK