The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) as part of this year’s World No-Tobacco Day-2021 (WNTD) celebration is intensifying its anti-tobacco smoking public education campaign in schools, marketplaces and transport terminals.
The education aims to sensitize the public on the need to quit smoking and the associated health benefits of not smoking.
The year-long campaign, under the theme, ‘Commit to quit’, according to the FDA, would advocate for strong tobacco cessation policies, promote increased access to cessation services, raise awareness of tobacco industry tactics, and empower tobacco users to make successful attempts to quit smoking through ‘quit and win initiatives’.
Though more than 804,000 adults in Ghana are estimated to smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products on a daily basis, the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS, 2017) has estimated that the incident is prevalent among young people in the country.
The GYTS Ghana Fact Sheet indicates that 8.8 percent of boys and 8.1 percent of girls, currently use tobacco products whiles the use of shisha is sharply rising among young people in Ghana.
Every year, tobacco kills more than eight (8) million people globally, with almost seven million of these deaths emanating directly from tobacco use, with around 1.2 million people dying due to exposure to second-hand smoke from smokers.
Smokers are exposed to a lethal mixture of more than 7000 toxic chemicals including at least 70 known carcinogens that can damage nearly every organ in the human body. Instructively, the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that smoking causes over US$500 billion in economic damage each year.
The Head of Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Department of the FDA, Dr. Mrs Olivia Boateng, speaking on the need for smokers to quit, said the COVID-19 pandemic has even presented a higher risk to smokers as the hand to mouth contact during smoking and sharing of mouth pieces of shisha tubes could easily aid the spread of the virus.
Dr. Boateng explained that a review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO on April 29, 2020, confirmed the higher risk of smokers to COVID-19 complications alongside other respiratory diseases.
The complications are a result of the compromised lung function arising from continuous exposure to tobacco toxins, she said.
Giving details of data on smokers, she said the 804,000 daily cigarette smokers figure, was estimated by the Tobacco Atlas Ghana (2015) and that it included more than 425,200 men, 69,200 women and 2,700 boys. About 75 men in Ghana die every week from cigarettes smoking.
To this end, the FDA seeks to promote the benefits of quitting tobacco. These benefits are enormous and kick in almost immediately.
For instance, 20 minutes of quitting smoking leads to a drop in heart rate. Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in a smoker’s blood drops to normal, and within 2-12 weeks, blood circulation improves with a corresponding increase in lung function.
Furthermore, in a spate of 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decreases, and within 5-15 years, the stroke risk of the smoker is reduced to that of a non-smoker. Also, within a matter of 15 years, the risk of heart disease drops to normal levels as that of a non-smoker.
The Authority has also referred smokers to various health facilities across the country to obtain counselling and cessation services. These facilities include the Addictive disease Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Pantang Psychiatric Hospital, Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital, Valley View Clinic, Adom Clinic (Kumasi), Sunyani Regional Hospital, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and the Ho Teaching Hospital.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the FDA, Mrs Delese Mimi Darko, has explained that the continuous enforcement of comprehensive smoke-free policies such as the ban on tobacco advertisement, fees on tobacco product importation, ban on public smoking and the corresponding introduction of punitive fines have helped to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in Ghana.