VALD to MoH: Protect health policies from tobacco industry interference

The Vision for Alternative Development - Ghana (VALD Ghana) has recommended to the Ministry of Health to implement a robust code of conduct to insulate public health policies from the interference of the tobacco industry. This would help prevent the tobacco industry from undermining future tobacco control efforts and the implementation of current policies. The VALD-Ghana made the recommendation when it launched a report on its findings of a rapid study on tobacco industry interference during the process to the passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023 (Act 1093) in March, this year. Mr Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD-Ghana, who together with other tobacco control actors launched the report, said tobacco industry interference in public health was the greatest threat in advancing tobacco control. 'To understand the extent/degree of the tobacco industry interferences during the process that led to the passage, the VALD Ghana commissioned a rapid report, meticulously prepared, to expose the tactics used by the tobacco industry in an attempt to undermine passage of the Excise Taxes,' he stated. He said the Act was essential for safeguarding public health and the integrity of the Ghana's tax system, adding that; 'Act 1093 was faced with multiple degree of interference notably from the tobacco, alcohol and sugar sweetened beverage industries, which cause its delay.' Mr Musah said persistent industry interference in Ghana's public health policies had significantly impeded effective implementation of tobacco control measures. 'This in effect undermines the nation's public health goals. This interference was observed during the recent passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023, a critical legislation to transition Ghana to a hybrid tax regime for tobacco products,' he stated. He said the shift from ad valorem to specific or hybrid tobacco tax regimes had been implemented successfully in various countries and was significantly reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, consumption among the youth and increasing government revenue. The report called on stakeholders including the MoH, Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ghana Revenue Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, World Health Organisation - Ghana, and civil society organisations (CSOs) to meet to discuss and review the inclusion of cigarette as an excisable product contrary to the Public Health Act (Act 851). It recommended that through relevant stakeholders, the government should facilitate the development of a Ghana-specific industry argument and public health responses to counter the arguments. 'The MoH and its agencies must increase and regularize consistent nationwide public education campaigns in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to raise awareness of the dangers of consuming tobacco products and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 guidelines,' the report urged. It encouraged CSOs to alert and engage with the MoF, MoH, and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health plus other influential stakeholders; highlighting the activities of the tobacco industry which contravene WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines. It recommended that the MoH should facilitate inter-agency collaboration among government and non-government stakeholders to strengthen the enforcement and implementation of existing tobacco control measures and regulations in Ghana. 'CSOs led by VALD-Ghana and identified expert researchers should initiate and undertake further research to unveil the gains of industry-allied and front groups from prioritizing industry interests over public health benefits,' the report stated.

Source: Ghana News Agency