Tobacco-Related Illnesses Contribute to 3% of Deaths in Ghana

ACCRA, Ghana — Dr. Alex Kombat, a Senior Revenue Officer at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), has disclosed that tobacco-related illnesses are responsible for 3% of all deaths in Ghana. These illnesses also impose an annual cost of GHC 668 million on the nation, equivalent to 0.2% of Ghana’s annual gross domestic product.

According to Ghana News Agency, the affordability and addictive nature of tobacco products contribute to their continued consumption. He stated this at the launch of Ghana’s 2023 Tobacco Industry Interference Index (TIII) Report by Vision for Alternative Development (VALD-Ghana) in Accra. The report was presented at a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss strategies for reducing tobacco consumption in the country.

Dr. Kombat emphasized that the Government and the GRA have recognized the importance of imposing taxes on tobacco products to increase their prices and deter consumption. Over the years, the government has employed policy control measures such as excise taxes, customs duties, value-added tax, and National Health Insurance Levy at entry points and domestically to discourage the use of these harmful products. However, the implementation of these policies has faced challenges due to the interference of industry players.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s Article Six requires parties to implement tax policies to reduce tobacco consumption and help raise revenue. The ECOWAS directive on the harmonization of excise duties on tobacco products mandates a combination of ad-valorem duty and specific duty on tobacco products. Despite resistance from industry players, these directives have been gradually implemented.

VALD-Ghana played a crucial role in this regard, conducting research and engaging policymakers to ensure the successful implementation of these tax policies. Two bills were submitted to Parliament in December 2022, but they were not passed at that time. Persistent efforts by VALD, including several press conferences, led to the passing of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2023 (Act 1093) on March 31, 2023. This Act amended the Principal Excise Duty Act 2014 (Act 878) to replace the first schedule.

The report also indicates a slight reduction in tobacco industry interference in public health policies, from 58% to 56% between 2020 and 2021. This assessment is aligned with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 and its guidelines. The TIII report serves as a tool to scrutinize and quantify the tobacco industry’s interference in public health policymaking.

Mr. Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes at VALD-Ghana, who launched the report, highlighted its significance as a tool for evaluating the tobacco industry’s tactics and ensuring transparency in decision-making processes. The report revealed gaps in Ghana’s tobacco control regulations, particularly the lack of explicit provisions to curb tobacco industry interference in policy development. It also noted the delayed development of a code of conduct by the Ministry of Health, which would provide clear guidelines for public officials in their interactions with the tobacco industry.