The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) joins the World Health Organization (WHO), Partners and millions of people worldwide to mark World No Tobacco Day 2022 on the theme, “Tobacco: threat to our environment”. The campaign is aimed to raise awareness among the public on the environmental impact of tobacco – from cultivation, production, distribution and waste.
The campaign will also aim to expose tobacco industry’s effort to “greenwash” its reputation and products by marketing themselves as environmentally friendly.
Millions of trees are axed down on daily basis by the tobacco industry to facilitate production. This industry is not just responsible for producing harmful tobacco products; they are guilty of polluting the air, water and further creating environmental waste yearly. The tobacco industry does not only produce a new waste stream but also poses a very serious threat to the ecosystem making tobacco not just a health issue but an environmental issue as well.
Tobacco’s harm go deeper than you might imagine. In addition to the devastating toll it takes on health, tobacco production and consumption are accelerating the climate crisis by contributing to carbon emissions, plastic pollution, water use and waterway contamination. According to The Lancet, with an annual greenhouse gas contribution of 84 megatons carbon dioxide equivalent, the tobacco industry contributes to climate change and reduces climate resilience, wasting resources and damaging ecosystems.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths and various forms of cancers, including throat cancer, lung cancer, mouth cancer, etc. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year, and if the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030.
A study facilitated by VALD on the “Economics of Tobacco Taxation/Control in Ghana” revealed that, an estimated 804,900 Ghanaian adults smoked cigarettes in 2015 on daily basis. The number is projected to reach 1.7 million by 2025 if stringent measures are not taken to curb this menace. This, therefore, makes tobacco a major public health threat in Ghana, especially with the youth and women now getting addicted to flavored tobacco, shisha and e-cigarettes. Despite the absolute ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, introduction of pictorial health warnings, ban on public smoking, etc. more efforts are needed to reinforce tobacco control policies and help reduce its disease burden and death toll.
The Vision for Alternative Development, through the study, has provided empirical evidence on the need to implement reforms in Ghana’s current tax administration – a shift from the current tax structure of ad valorem to specific or a mixture; this will lead to a reduction in consumption as well as raise revenue for health financing- a call which has received warm recognition by Parliament, the Ghana Revenue Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, Civil Society Actors, the media among others.
There is the need to protect the youth, most especially children from tobacco industry manipulation and prevent them from initiation and tobacco use. VALD exposes the strategies employed by these industries through the introduction of shisha, e-cigarette and flavored tobacco. These are tobacco in disguise, smoking it equally exposes one to all the health risks of tobacco including cancers, tuberculosis, chronic NCDs and death.
Reducing tobacco consumption needs to be identified as a key lever for achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals, not just those directly related to health. VALD calls on the government and policy makers to step up legislation, including implementing and strengthening existing schemes to make producers responsible for the environmental and economic costs of tobacco waste.
It is time for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to intensify activities to protect and improve the environment ensuring that, the air, land and water are well maintained for a cleaner and a healthier world. VALD entreats the EPA to formulate sound policies to regulate especially the indiscriminate disposal of cigarette butts; ensuring there is reduction in Environmental Pollution and greenhouse gases, and enhance Climate Change Resilience as well as protecting our water bodies
Authorities, most especially the Ghana Revenue Authority must intensify surveillance at the various borders, to ensure there is zero tolerance for illicit trade in tobacco products on the Ghanaian market and also call for the establishment of cessation centers to assist smokers who want to quit smoking. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the lapses in our health care system and also the susceptibility of tobacco users, who have up to a 50% higher risk of developing severe complications and death from the virus, a fact that has triggered a lot to want to quit tobacco use.
“I envision a tobacco-free era where this lethal product is no more in circulation, with humankind and the environment saved from its destructive grip. It is achievable, collectively we can!!!
Executive Director of Programmes: Vision for Alternative Development