A survey by the Ghana Health Service between 2000 and 2009 has made a startling revelation, clamiming as much as nine per cent of pupils in basic schools are smoking tobacco.
This was disclosed at a media briefing as part of activities to mark the upcoming "World No Tobacco Day" on May 31.
According to the report, about 70 per cent of these pupils may die at age 45 if they do not stop the habit.
“So if we have about nine per cent of our population smoking, then already we are saying that 70 per cent of them would be dead by the time they reach 45, that is worrying,” Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Akwesi Osei has noted.
Expatiating on the survey, he said smoking was not rampant in the rural areas as it was in the urban areas, but was prevalent in the three northern regions.
Dr Osei said about 1,917 pupils in Junior High Schools (JHS) 1,2 and 3 were surveyed, which “we realized that nine per cent were smoking" at an average age of 15 years.
He said it was also established that about 28 per cent of the pupils were exposed to smoking by their parents or relatives.
He attributed the increasing number of pupils hooking on to the tobacco to the lack of law to regulate the use of tobacco in the country, and specifically to ban people from smoking in public places. He therefore called for immediate promulgation of the Tobacco Bill.
Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, former Director General of the Ghana Health Service was not surprised by the figure, noting that early surveys conducted in the country make the current figure “predictable”.
The ardent anti-smoking advocate, therefore, called for a “bold statement” and "political will" from those in authority to deal with the “overwhelming evidence” as provided by the Ghana Health Service.
“Bulk of the matter is that this country has got to make a bold statement that second-hand smoking is bad, and therefore as much as possible we must protect the innocent public from coming into contact with second hand smoking.”
Vision for Alternative Development, an anti-smoking NGO has also blamed government for allowing tobacco companies to work against the speedy passage of the tobacco bill initiated about a decade ago.
Its executive Director, Issah Ali, moreover, want the minimum age for smoking to be pegged at 21 instead of 18.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Joseph Yieleh Chireh said the Tobacco Bill is currently being worked on by his outfit and that of the Attorney General’s Department.
He indicated that Cabinet had agreed that it should be sent to parliament for enactment, but that has delayed because the two ministries would have to put finishing touches to the Bill.
He noted that existing clause which says a government’s authority should be set up to enforce the prohibition on tobacco advertisement is being replaced to give that power to a committee to be recognized under the Food and Drugs and Medicines Act, a component of the Public Health Bill.
“My ministry and that of the Attorney General have almost completed the portion that would be amended before we lay it before parliament,” Mr Yieleh Chireh said.
He also denied perception that tobacco companies are influencing the smooth passage of the Bill.
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