Second-Hand Smoking Causes Almost 90% of Smoke Related Deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa

KNUST Campus

A team of researchers from the School of Public Health of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (SPH-KNUST) have revealed that smoking of tobacco is a growing cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

In a study, they disclosed that 77% of global smoking-related deaths and 89% of second-hand smoke related-deaths occur in low-and-middle-income countries.

It is important to reduce exposure to Second-hand smoke, a public health challenge for countries like Ghana, where smoke-free legislation can have significant impacts. Ghana has a partial smoke-free policy which allows smoking at Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs).

The dissemination exercise to outdoor the findings of the study was held on Wednesday 9th June 2021 at the Alisa Hotel, Accra. The study titled “Evaluating Progress Towards a Smoke-Free Ghana” was supported by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) with funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund. Researchers from the School of Public Health (SPH-KNUST) and the University of Edinburgh (UK) conducted the study.

The study revealed that there is poor knowledge and low compliance levels with the current policies. There are calls for the ban on smoking in public places by staff of hospitality facilities in the country. It also highlighted a general lack of compliance to the policy especially in the areas of hospitality facilities.

According to Dr Arti Singh, Covert observation of hospitality venues reveals a lack of compliance to current smoke-free policy. This suggests a heightened risk to the non-smoking population in these areas and the associated air pollution drifting into adjacent indoor areas via open windows and doors.

On air quality measurements, the researchers observed that air quality was poor in venues where smoking was observed, when compared to venues where smoking was not observed.

‘‘Despite good progress in air quality as compared to earlier studies, the current public smoke-free policy does not fully meet the standards of Article 8 of the WHO FCTC as there is no risk-free level of Second-Hand Smoking and even brief or minimal exposure can cause harm,”. Dr Singh and her team discovered.

The researchers also indicated that Article 8 of the FCTC requires Parties to adopt and implement effective measures providing protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, and indoor public places.

The study revealed that despite strong support for Ghana’s smoke-free policies, staff of hospitality venues lack knowledge on tobacco control and current policies, suggesting a need to educate hospitality industry workers since they are more exposed to second-hand smoke.

There is a rise in tobacco use, particularly water pipes, among young people in Ghana. The non-smoking population is also exposed to second-hand smoke, particularly in hospitality venues including bars, hotels, restaurants, night clubs, and pubs. It is believed that the implementation of comprehensive smoke-free policies can provide several benefits for the population.

Tobacco use is rising among the youth, and it is important that smoke-free policies are thoroughly implemented to reduce exposure to second-hand smoking, encourage smoking cessation and reduce uptake.

Experts say the creation of 100% smoke-free environments is one of the most effective, science-based measures to protect the non-smoking population from the harmful effects of exposure to second-hand smoking. The report therefore highlights the need for strengthening compliance and enforcement of the current smoke-free policies in Ghana.

The researchers recommend the need for civil society actors to dedicate resources into implementing targeted media and educational campaigns to inform hospitality workers and the general public about the existence of the smoke-free policies in Ghana and the health hazards of second-hand smoking to non-smokers.

They also urged the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to continually monitor compliance and enforcement of the current smoke-free policy.

“As part of the government’s obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a review of the current smoke -free policy is required to facilitate the adoption of the implementation of the comprehensive smoke-free policies,” the report recommended.

Other members of the team include Professor Ellis Owusu-Dabo, Devine Darlington Logo, Fiona Dobbie and Patricia Amoah Yirenkyi.

African Eye Report