Shisha Is A Threat To Ghanaian Youth; Government Must Urgently Ban It - CSOs

The Vision for Alternative Development, Ghana (VALD-Ghana) and its partners have called on the government to urgently ban the use of shisha as it is a threat to the Ghanaian youth.

The partners, which include the Ghana NCD Alliance and others, said their attention was drawn to a viral video in which some students from the Sunyani Senior High School were seen smoking shisha, one of the tobacco industry’s deadliest products.

They said as civil society organisation (CSO) actors, they were very much concerned about the dangers this act would have on the health of these young girls involved, hence the call for an immediate ban on the product instead of regulating it.

The CSOs made the call in a release signed by Mr Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD-Ghana and the National Coordinator, Ghana NCD Alliance and copied to the Ghana News Agency.

The release said: “We are even more disturbed about the action taken by the authorities of the school to suspend these girls. The school authorities and the Ghana Education Service must be more concerned about the effects the product has had on these young girls and provide them with some medical and counselling attention.”

It noted that there is a need for intensive investigation by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to attain further information about the facility where the shisha is being offered and whether it meets the regulatory standards.

“This is a clear violation of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Ghana Public Health Act (Act 851) of 2012, which seeks to protect children from the use and exposure to tobacco smoke,” it stated.

The release said the CSO actors in health led by VALD-Ghana had in the past called on the FDA and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to use either an administrative fiat or guidelines to ban shisha in Ghana, but no action was taken.

“Shisha over the years has become a fashionable product among the second cycle institutions and at the tertiary levels and more common in many communities of Ghana. It is therefore important to note that regulating the deadliest product by the FDA given the recent increase in consumption, especially among the youth, is certainly not deterrent enough, putting the future of our children at risk,” it stated.

The release said additionally, considering the health implications of smoking shisha as research revealed, a session of shisha was equivalent to smoking over 100 sticks of cigarettes, thus it has become more expedient to ban it rather than regulate it, adding that many of the products were also illegally sold as they do not meet the required standards.

It further stated that research by the Ghana Health Service indicates that most of the country’s youth have ditched the smoking of traditional tobacco cigarettes for e-cigarettes and shisha and that the rate at which the young people were smoking the products has shot up to 5.3 per cent, higher than the traditional use of tobacco which stands at 2.8 per cent.

The release said despite the ban on tobacco-related advertisements and the law against smoking in public places, the consumption of tobacco and its related products were still on the rise in Ghana.

“A study on ‘The Economics of Tobacco Control/Taxation in Ghana’ facilitated by VALD-Ghana revealed that the youth and women especially are now getting hooked on flavoured tobacco/cigarettes and shisha because of its appealing fragrance.

“There is a misconception held by many people that shisha is safer than cigarettes because of its contact with water, however, according to the American Lung Association, at least 82 toxic chemicals and carcinogens have been identified in hookah/shisha smoke,” it stated.

The release said smoking shisha increases the risk of oral cancer, lung cancer, and heart diseases, among others; moreover, the body fluids exchanged with multiple people sharing one pipe which was not cleaned properly or at all, present another avenue for the spread of infectious diseases.

The VALD-Ghana and its partners acknowledged the efforts of the FDA in promoting education and awareness creation on the harmful effects of tobacco use, “However, we believe it is time we take giant steps which go beyond education and sensitization.

“We, therefore, call on the MoH and the FDA as a matter of urgency to begin the process of outlawing the shisha products in Ghana. Many countries including, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Cameroon, among others, had taken bold steps in banning shisha in their respective countries, because of the public health threat it will have on their children and their youth.”

The release also called for a deliberate plan to rollout education in the schools, especially the second cycle and tertiary institutions on the negative effects of tobacco use on their health.