Importers of tobacco products will have to comply with plain packaging regulations being enforced by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) as a new step to curb the use and appeal of tobacco.
Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng, Head, Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Department of the FDA told Business24 that the push for plain packaging of tobacco products is part of measures to reduce the attractiveness and restrict use of tobacco packaging as a form of advertisement and promotion.
“Our next steps are regulations that will restrict the colour of packages, prevent brand logos or promotional text display in order to reduce the appeal or attractiveness, particularly to the youth, as has been done in Australia,” she told Business24 in an interview.
Currently, tobacco advertisements are banned and tobacco products sold in the country have Pictorial Health Warnings (PHW) that communicate the effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. Importers who breach this requirement are fined heavily.
“Because we have banned tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, the tobacco industry may hide behind the movie industry, brand or social media influencers to indirectly advertise or promote their products.
So we expect that anti-tobacco messages are run in movies that depict scenery of tobacco use to also inform or educate the viewers on the harmful effects of tobacco use,” she added.
Ghana has ratified by resolution the Protocol for the Elimination of illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
The protocol aims among others to eliminate all forms of unlawful trade in tobacco products in accordance with the terms of Article 15 of the WHO FCTC to secure the supply chain of tobacco products and protect people across the globe from the risks of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
A review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO on 29 April 2020 found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function and may negatively influence the body’s response to fight off coronaviruses and other lung-related diseases
Also, tobacco use is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19.
In Ghana, the FDA is mandated to regulate tobacco and tobacco products by effectively implementing the comprehensive smoke-free policies in the Public Health Act 2012, (ACT 851), Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (LI. 2247) and World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).