Alex Segbefia, Minister for Health

Alex Segbefia, Minister for Health

Ghana?s Minister responsible for Health, Alex Segbefia, has assured the citizenry that the Legislative Instrument (LI) needed for the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act (Act 851) is ready for presentation to Parliament soon.

The LI is needed to give directions to the Act which was passed by Parliament on July 11, 2012 and was assented to by President John Mahama on October 9 of the same year. The law is however ineffective because the LI to give it the ?teeth to bite? is yet to be approved by Parliament.

Stakeholders have collaborated with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to draft the LI which was presented to the Attorney General?s Department for legal input among others. However, it appears the draft LI has hit a rock as there have been no response from the AG?s department since then. Questions are being asked as to the whereabouts of the draft LI with some individuals and groups even suggesting that State authorities might have been compromised by Big Tobacco as is the situation in some other countries.

Mr. Segbefia, who recently assumed office as the new Health Minister has revealed that work on the LI has finally been completed and that the it is ready for presentation to Parliament. In his statement to mark this year?s World No Tobacco Day which fell on May 31, the Minister said ?Ghana has passed a public health law and completed its legislative instrument, which would be sent to Parliament?.

Stakeholders have welcomed the announcement but urged the Minister to fast-track the facilitation of the LI to parliament for adoption so as to allow for full implementation of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act. Mr Emmanuel Tsedey, the General Secretary of the Media Alliance in Tobacco Control (MATCO); a group of journalists and media practitioners advocating a Tobacco Control legislation for Ghana, told in an interview that the time for the LI is long overdue and Ghana cannot wait any longer.

?We have been waiting for this piece of news since 2012 and we are happy it is here now. We have a law that cannot be implemented simply because it does not have directions. This LI will give directions to the law. Innocent people are dying from second-hand smoking and the government has the responsibility to prevent such deaths. We have hope in this Minister and we strongly believe that he is actually going to deliver on his promise by pushing this LI to Parliament?Ghana needs this law to protect future generations from tobacco use,? Tsedey stated.

The Minister in his statement also called on smokers in the country to drop the habit and regain their health and advocate tobacco cessation.

According to him about 10 per cent of Ghana?s adult population smoke cigarette and this include 4.6 per cent Junior High School students.

He said interventions such as intensive public education through the media and sensitization of health personnel among others are being employed to curtail the situation, adding that Ghana has also signed the protocol on illicit trade. He urged the public to recognize the adverse health, economic and social impact of illicit trade of tobacco products, including the linkages to human trafficking and organized drug crimes as well as terrorism, among others.

The theme for the 2015 World No Tobacco Day was ?End illicit trade of tobacco products.?

It is aimed at raising the awareness on the harm to people?s health caused by the illicit trade in tobacco, especially the youth and low income groups.

?The campaign would also be used to highlight how the illicit trade of tobacco products is a means of amassing great wealth for criminal groups to finance organized crime activities including drugs and human trafficking, as well as terrorism,? the Minister said.
The campaign would also be used to promote the ratification, accession and use of the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products by all parties for the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its early entry into force through the active involvement of stakeholders.

Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson , Spy News Agency


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