The use of tobacco for marriages and funerals in the Upper East Region is said to be responsible for the production, peddling and OK smoking of the harmful product across the region. The 2008 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that 11.4% of the people in the region are smokers, minus other forms of tobacco usage.

At this year’s national launch of World No Tobacco Day in Bolgatanga last Friday, Mr. Mark Woyongo, Upper East Regional Minister, observed that tobacco usage was culturally rooted among the people of the region, because it was used for marriage and funeral purposes.

He also noted that there was hardly any home in the region without a form of tobacco usage.

‘It is freely cultivated, and more or less a cash crop of the region,’ he intimated.

According to the Minister, a number of young boys and girls were parading the streets mentally derailed because they had smoked all sorts of narcotics, including marijuana also known as ‘wee’.

Some of these young people would have graduated from tobacco use to more harmful substances.

Mr. Woyongo has, therefore, charged the security agencies to be more vigilant and clamp down on the producers, peddlers and smokers of these narcotic substances, which were causing health problems, and at the same time, creating public insecurity in the region.

While appealing to the Regional House of Chiefs to further discuss and possibly review the use of tobacco for customary practices in the region, the Regional Minister also appealed to the health authorities in the region to continue to organise durbars at the paramountcy level to educate the populace to appreciate the harmful effects of tobacco use, in order to save the lives of the present generation, and the ones yet unborn.

Mr. Woyongo, whose speech was read on his behalf by his deputy, Mrs. Lucy Awuni, was equally worried about the alarming prevalence rate of HIV in the region.

Quoting from the 2010 Sentinel Survey Report on HIV, which showed that the region’s prevalence rate had increased from 2.2% in 2009 to 2.4 in 2010, with the Bolgatanga Municipality suddenly shooting up to fourth position, out of 40 sentinel sites nationwide, with 3.8%, the Minister appealed to everybody to join in the crusade against the trend, by sticking to the ABC rule.

He noted that the region was faced with poverty, disease, mortality, and inadequate health professionals, and if care was not taken to curtail the trend, it could worsen the poverty situation of the people, which would adversely impede development.

Health experts at this year’s World No Tobacco unanimously, advised all tobacco smokers in Ghana to quit the harmful habit so they can live longer. They said scientifically, there was no iota of benefit in smoking tobacco.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), tobacco use currently kills more than 14,000 individuals each day in the world, and makes even many more people incapacitated.