FDA deepens stakeholder collaboration on enforcing tobacco controlACTA
Mr. Gordon Akurugu, Volta Regional Head of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), has called for effective inter-agency collaboration and harmonisation to guarantee success in enforcing tobacco regulations in the country.
He said with the marketing and consumption of tobacco products progressing into diverse forms and trends, concerted efforts by stakeholders had become necessary in holding back widespread abuse.
Mr. Akurugu was addressing a workshop for law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders at the Akanu Border in the Ketu North Municipality, organised by the FDA with support from the World Health Organisation.
He said the passage of the Tobacco Control Regulations (LI 2247) of 2016, and the recent ratification of the International Protocol to Eliminating Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, should grant impetus to regulatory regimes, and that the FDA was working ensure that the trade and consumption of tobacco products remained as stipulated.
The Regional Director said unapproved tobacco products persisted on the markets despite multi-generational health risks, and for which reason the FDA had taken to establishing national and regional platforms that would help maintain “very reliable teams to ensure future leaders are not affected.
“There is the need for us to come together to win this war. We will work with the LI to ensure that products are registered and not used in an open environment,” he stressed, adding that a well-resourced joint tobacco taskforce would help regulate the substance effectively.
Mr. Akurugu revealed efforts including clampdowns on public events themed on tobacco smoking, and said the role of other stakeholders including traditional leaders, and Local Assemblies in effective regulation could not be overemphasized.
He noted that the workshop in the Region was crucial as it had the most entry points along the corridor, and would help address enforcement gaps among officers and enhance control.
“We hope that as a team, we will be able to do something positive,” Mr. Akurugu added.
Ms. Mavis Danso, a Regulatory Officer with the Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Department of the FDA, led a common understanding of the latest tobacco control regulations.
She said tobacco use lingered heaviest within low to medium income countries, and currently claimed about 75 lives weekly in Ghana, while a growing number of girls remained among youths heavily using trendy ultra-processed tobacco products, often presumed harmless.
“The percentage is alarming and it’s something that we as regulators we are looking at,” the Officer remarked
She said managers of public facilities were not obliged to provide designated smoking areas, and could declare their premises as prohibited to smoking activity, and that those that wished to establish an area of convenience must follow the guidelines of the FDA.
Ms. Danso said the Authority had been strong in enforcing health risk labelling and age restrictions as part of its activities within a challenging dynamic regulatory system, and noted also, that new and emerging trends in tobacco use would require new laws, as well as frequent education of individual enforcement agencies.
She said low awareness and apathy kept back the needed public support, and appealed to all to show concern.
Ms. Danso also called on the Health Service to consider special focus on cessation facilities to encourage persons seeking an end to smoking habits.
Mr. Osei Tutu Agyeman, an Officer with the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, said tobacco-marketing companies should consider the regulatory effort a greater part of their corporate social responsibility.
He also supported calls for special courts to enable the FDA speedily and effectively regulate the product.