The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Network of African Science Academies had jointly launched the 2014 World No Tobacco Day and the "Preventing a Tobacco Epidemic in Africa" report in Accra.
World No Tobacco Day is a day set aside every year on 31st May, to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
The Minister for Health, Hon Hanny Sherry Ayittey who launched the day said the goal of the World No Tobacco day was to contribute to protect present and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Sherry Ayittey said research findings in Ghana revealed that 9% of adults and 4% of Junior High School (JHS) students smoke cigarette.
"The findings might suggest a beginning of tobacco epidemic and call for all concerted effort and emergency action with all seriousness to address the epidemic given the enormity of Ghana's health challenge and the limited resources in meeting the priority of public health needs," she added.
Commenting on the theme of the occasion, "Raise Taxes on Tobacco" the Minister explained that increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes was the most effective way to decrease consumption and encourage tobacco users to quit.
She stressed on the fact that tax increase benefits governments through increased revenue, which could be used for tobacco control and other priority public health and socio-economic interventions.
"The tobacco taxation in Ghana is ad valorem at 150% of Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) value, the highest rate in ECOWAS region. Unfortunately however, the prices of cigarettes remain reasonably low, with the tobacco industry continuing to maintain control over the sale prices of cigarette, thus rendering the tobacco taxation ineffective in reducing demand," she said.
Sherry Ayittey explained that to use taxation to effectively reduce demand for tobacco Ghana may need to consider replacing the ad valorem taxation with a specific excise tax in the form of an excise stamp indexed on inflation and affixed to each ready-for-consumption packet. However that would increase cigarette selling price, improving traceability and better contain smuggling.