Ghana has been selected to host the second working group meeting on World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in April this year.
The meeting is to, among other things, identify and develop opportunities for practical cooperation with competent intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations in the promotion of sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing.
It is also to help achieve the FCTC’s objective of protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to smoking, as well as the reduction of demand for tobacco products.
At the inauguration of a nine-member Local Planning Committee to plan for the meeting scheduled for April 20 to 23, outgoing Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Oakley Quaye-Kuma, said the WHO convention on tobacco control was the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO, which is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirmed the right of all people to the highest standards of health.
The objectives of the working group meeting is among other things to interact with other global players and to deliberate and strategise on alternative livelihoods to tobacco growing in order to protect the environment and the health of persons in the production and manufacturing of tobacco products.
About 40 participants from 18 member countries would be attending the meeting.
The FCTC treaty adopted in 2003 by the World Health Assembly, is the world’s first treaty devoted to health to get people to quit smoking and to reduce the estimated five million deaths annually caused by smoking.
He said tobacco smoking was unhealthy and caused chronic diseases that could lead to death, adding that smoke damaged the lungs and was the principal cause of lung or bronchial cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“What many people, smokers and non-smokers alike, may not know is that tobacco use increases risks of cancer of many sites in the body in addition to the lungs.
“These include the head and neck (covering cancers of the oesophagus, larynx, tongue, salivary glands, lip, mouth and pharynx) urinary bladder and kidneys, uterine cervix, breast, pancreas and colon,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said people who cultivated and handled tobacco leaves were equally at risk of tobacco related diseases, such as green tobacco sickness, pesticide intoxication, respiration and dermatological disorders and other types of cancers.
To this end, the FCTC called on all parties to the Convention to raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about industry interference with tobacco control policies, as well as avoid conflict of interest from government officials and employees.
According to the Deputy Minister, Article 17 and 18 of the Framework Convention deals with provision of support for economically viable alternative activities and protection of the environment and the health of persons.
Parties to the Convention were, therefore, required to promote economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers and, as the case may be, individual sellers, he said.
In order to make progress in the promotion of sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing at the district, regional, national and international levels, Mr. Quaye-kuma said, there was the need to increase the participation of specialized local and international agencies which are recognized experts in this process.
The Chairman of the local Planning Committee, Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist at the Ministry of Health, said issues to be discussed at the meeting would be adopted by the General Assembly towards the end of the year as a guide for the world towards the control of tobacco production, marketing and consumption.
He said Ghana was in the good books of WHO, hence the choice for the second meeting and pledged the committee’s readiness to ensure a memorable and very productive meeting.