Home » Ghana’s Cigarette Smuggling Crisis: How Illegal Trade is Costing Lives and Revenue 

Ghana’s Cigarette Smuggling Crisis: How Illegal Trade is Costing Lives and Revenue 

A new study reveals the extent and impact of the illegal trade of cigarettes in the country, and calls for urgent action to curb it.

by Motoni Olodun

Ghana is facing a serious challenge in curbing the illicit trade of cigarettes, which accounts for 39% of the total cigarette sales in the country, according to a new study by Euromonitor International Limited. The study, which was presented at a stakeholders’ meeting on tobacco industry interference organised by the Vision for Alternative Development – Ghana (VALD-Ghana), revealed that the illicit cigarette market grew from 35% in 2017 to 39% in 2018, resulting in a huge loss of tax revenue for the government.

The study collected 4461 illicit cigarette packs from 384 retailers across the country and found that most of them originated from Togo and Nigeria. The study also found that the illicit cigarettes were sold at very low prices, ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 Ghanaian cedis per pack, compared to the legal cigarettes that cost between 6 and 10 cedis per pack. The low prices make illicit cigarettes more affordable and accessible to young people and low-income smokers, increasing the health risks and social costs of tobacco use.

The study recommended the implementation of a national work plan or task force to combat illicit trade, as well as the development of an efficient track-and-trace system to monitor the production, taxation, and sale of cigarettes. The study also called for the capacity building of law enforcement officers and public awareness of the dangers of illicit cigarettes.

Ghana is a party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which obliges the country to implement effective tobacco control measures to reduce the demand and supply of tobacco products. However, the country has been slow in fulfilling its commitments, especially in the areas of tobacco taxation, packaging and labelling, and smoke-free environments. The tobacco industry has also been accused of interfering with the policy-making process and undermining the implementation of the FCTC.

According to the WHO, tobacco use kills more than 8 million people globally every year, and more than 80% of these deaths occur in LMICs. Tobacco use is also a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease, which account for 41% of all deaths in Ghana. The WHO estimates that by 2030, tobacco-attributable deaths will increase by 45% in Africa, making it the region with the highest projected increase in tobacco-related mortality.

Despite the challenges, there are some signs of progress and hope for tobacco control in Ghana. In 2018, the country introduced pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs, covering 50% of the front and back of the packs. The country also ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in 2021, becoming the 62nd party to the Protocol. The Protocol aims to prevent and combat the illicit trade of tobacco products through a global tracking and tracing system, international cooperation, and legal assistance. The country is also working on a comprehensive tobacco control bill, which is expected to be passed soon.

The stakeholders’ meeting, which was held on November 23, 2023, brought together representatives from academia, research, health, civil society, and non-governmental organisations, to discuss the current situation and the way forward for tobacco control in Ghana. The meeting was part of the Tobacco Control Capacity Programme (TCCP), funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which aims to strengthen the capacity of researchers and policymakers in LMICs to implement the FCTC. The meeting also highlighted the need for more local and comprehensive data and research, as well as the engagement of the public and the media, to support the tobacco control agenda in Ghana.

Source: MyJoyOnline

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