Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in health have called on the government to urgently ban the smoking of shisha in the country to save the lives of the people from the devastating effect of the product.
The CSOs are the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), Ghana NCD Alliance, People Living with NCDs, Institute for Leadership and Development, Media Alliance in Tobacco Control, Community Health Support Team and Jaishi Ghana.
They further called on the government to regulate the online advertisement of tobacco and to enforce the Ghana Tobacco Control Law that protects children from the exposure and use of cigarettes.
The group made the call when they organised a float to educate the public on Covid-19 in the Madina community in Accra last Monday.
Some of the messages on their placards read: “Covid-19: Smoking can increase your chances of getting deadly coronavirus,” “Government!! Why refusing to increase taxes on deadly tobacco products, but on essential products and services.”
The programme formed part of the celebration of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, which fell on Sunday, May 31, 2020. It was on the theme: “Protecting the youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.”
The National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance and the Programmes Director of Vision for Alternative Development, Mr Labram Musah, in an address, said tobacco smoking increased the risk of contracting Covid-19 due to its destruction of the human immune system.
He said the tobacco industry had seriously targeted young people as an emerging and vulnerable market for its addictive products, and that this should be a pressing a challenge for tobacco control policy-makers in every country, including Ghana.
“In recent times the industry has engineered strategies to target children through packaging and branding. This is evident in the explosion of interest in e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (shisha),” Mr Musah said.
“The Ghana 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey in Junior High Schools showed that 8.9 per cent of boys and 8.2 per cent of girls currently use any form of tobacco products. 7.0 per cent of boys and 5.3 per cent of girls currently smoke tobacco while 0.4 per cent of boys and 1.7 per cent of girls currently smoke shisha,” he said.
Mr Musah said the average shisha-smoking session, which lasted for an hour, was equivalent to smoking 100-200 sticks of cigarettes but the youth were oblivious of its harmful and deadly effect.
The Coordinator said great efforts had been made to control tobacco use in Ghana yet huge gaps still existed to protect children and the youth.
He said one of the most dangerous innovations by the industry was the online advertisement of tobacco products, which turned more social media influencers to market their products.
“Cigarettes are among the cheapest sold products in the Ghanaian market today, this is an attempt to lure our children to initiate the habit of smoking.
“We, therefore, need to put our children at heart and prioritise their health and future by ensuring that taxes are increased on tobacco and other forms of tobacco products to curb their use to save lives,” he said.