The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) commends President Akufo- Addo for the bold steps it has taken so far to reduce the spread and contain the Covid-19 which Ghana has recorded a total of 566 cases with 4 recoveries and 8 deaths.
While we commend the highest of government for initiative, we still think that there is more that our president must do to further reduce the pandemic. The cases are rising as well as the deaths and there are overwhelming evidences that smokers are at higher risk of getting other respiratory infections.
We have been told by the experts including, the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), and other respected institutions across the globe that people with underlying health challenges stands high risk to contracting covid-19. Specific mentions of underlying health risk people are mostly people with weak immune system and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as stroke, lung and heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, sickle cell, mental health patients, the aged etc.
The World Health Organization, which is leading the global battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, has said “Any kind of tobacco smoking is harmful to the bodily systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. COVID-19 can also harm these systems”.
The WHO further has reported that more than eight million people die from tobacco use. Most tobacco-related deaths occur in the low-and middle-income countries, areas that are targets of intensive tobacco industry interference and aggressive marketing especially to children and the poor. The report also states that tobacco smoking can be deadly for non-smokers. “Second-hand tobacco smoke contributes to heart disease, cancer, and other diseases causing an additional 1.2 million deaths annually”.
Dr. Momen Whaidi, a leading pulmonologist at the Duke University Hospital, has gone on record as saying that smoking weakens lung defense and makes it harder to fight coronavirus.
According to Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the United States National Institute of Drug Abuse “ It is therefore reasonable to be concerned that compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking history, such as chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD), could put people at risk for serious complications of Covid-19”.
A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers also reported that tobacco smokers are highly at the risk of progressing to the severe stage of Covid-19 than non-tobacco smokers.
As a result of these findings many countries have taking bold and practical steps to protect their citizens from death or becoming severely ill when they are exposed or contract the virus.
South Africa and Sri Lanka have taken bold steps to ban the sale of tobacco as one of the essential first steps to fight and contain the Covid-19: a step worth emulating by Ghana and other countries.
The smoking of cigarette and shisha among the youth is highly unregulated even though the Public Health Act (Act 851) bans smoking in public places. This is an opportunity for Ghana to as a matter of urgency ban all forms of tobacco products just as other countries have done for the good of public health not tobacco industry interest which is profit over health and impose fine sanctions to serve as deterrent to offenders.
We wish to reiterate that the cost of treating tobacco related diseases is much higher than the revenue derived from tobacco taxes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that NCD kills 94,400 representing 43% in Ghana and this percentage present a situation about health policy which cannot be overlooked.
‘The Tobacco Atlas’ revealed that in 2016, tobacco killed 75 men and 21 women every week in Ghana. In the era of Covid-19, these numbers are bound to increase.
The Vision for Alternative Development pleads with all persons especially smokers to bring to a halt the habit and adapt to a healthy lifestyle free from smoking to keep their immune system stronger.
We further call on the Ministry of Health and the Food and Drugs Authority to strengthen its enforcement of the tobacco control regulation.
We urge the general public to continue to adhere to all precautionary measures outlined to help in the fight against Covid-19.
• Wash hands regularly with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds and apply hand sanitizers.
• Practice social distancing especially if you have to go out.
• Report any symptoms such as fever, cough, headache, difficulty in breathing to any hospital or call the toll free lines (055-8439868, 050-9497700 and 112)
• Engage in recreational activities to keep your body active.
• Quit and avoid smoking