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Take key lessons from Sweden to reduce tobacco use – Harm Reduction Alliance urges



Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana has added its voice to the growing calls on government to implement strategies, policies and regulations aimed at drastically reducing tobacco use and its related substance in Ghana.

According to the Alliance, government can pick key lessons from European country, Sweden which has implemented efforts to becoming a tobacco-free society.

In a statement issued to mark ‘World No Tobacco Day’ held on May 31, 2023, Harm Reduction Alliance stressed on the harmful impacts of tobacco use on human lives and the environment.

It cited the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction Report which indicates that about 5,012 deaths annually were attributed to tobacco smoking with approximately 644,429 current smokers in Ghana.

It further reiterated remarks made by the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu during the launching of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) 2030 project held in Accra recently.

The Minister earlier noted the prevalence of tobacco smoking especially among youth people and cautioned that Ghana was faced with a dual burden of disease with the upsurge of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and a wide array of cancers.

Agyeman-Manu said although Ghana had made significant progress in tobacco control with the inclusion of tobacco-specific provisions in the Public Health Act, of 2012, passage of the tobacco control regulations in 2016 (L.I.2247) and the introduction of graphic health warnings, the country still has a long way to go in the pursuit of attaining a tobacco-free country.

In view of this the Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana is advocating that Ghana takes key lessons from Sweden to achieve the feat of reducing tobacco use.

“Sweden has achieved the feat of reducing the smoking rate by a whopping 80 per cent despite a 30 per cent spurt in population growth. The Swedes began the journey to a smoke-free society with the introduction of snus, a smokeless oral tobacco product usually held in the mouth between the lips and gums which brought the smoking rate down by 55 percent,” the statement explained.

It further pointed out that policymakers in Sweden had embraced a new generation of alternative risk nicotine products such as vaping and nicotine pouches which had contributed to a decline in smoking rates.

“The effects of these tobacco harm reduction efforts had led Sweden to save more than 3,400 lives yearly. It is projected that; the EU could save about 2.84 million lives should they follow Sweden’s example. Furthermore, compared to the rest of the EU, Sweden has 44% fewer tobacco-related deaths, 41 per cent lung cancer rates and 38 per cent fewer cancer-related deaths,” it continued.

Meanwhile in 2021, the European Union (EU) earmarked the year 2040 for Member States to be ‘Tobacco-free’. This is defined to be a smoking rate below six (6) percent and with two years on, Sweden is on course to achieve a ‘tobacco-free’ society 17 years ahead of the 2040 deadline.

“Sweden’s health authorities had implemented a tobacco control policy for the past 50 years where the traditional tobacco control measures recommended by the EU run alongside an openness to alternative reduced-risk products,” the Alliance said.

“Ghana can adopt and localise the Sweden example by embracing tobacco harm reduction (THR) interventions such as friendlier approaches in regulating reduced-risk products i.e., heated tobacco, nicotine pouches and vapes. This could be implemented alongside the traditional tobacco control measures and education making the country safer for all and attractive to investors,” it advocated.

“On World vape day, Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana would want to be associated with the comments made by the Finance Minister of Sweden in April 2022 – Mikael Damberg – “Tobacco and nicotine taxes are […] structured today so that products are generally taxed based on risk. […] Products that are judged to be more harmful to health have a higher tax.”

“Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana would like to urge policymakers in Ghana to follow the science and not to be persuaded to make policies based on morality and ideologies. By following the example of Sweden, Ghana could save lives, improve public health outcomes, and alleviate the burden on healthcare resources” the Alliance reiterated.

In conclusion, the Alliance called for increased education and regulation of traditional tobacco use as well as the provision of safer alternatives.

Harm Reduction Alliance, Ghana is a member of the West African Drug Policy Network and the Ghana Network on Drug Policy Reforms. It advocates for the adoption of harm reduction interventions and provides outreach services for the key population of people who use drugs.



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