For sure, no attempt by some members of the Ghanaian media and some Ghanaian celebrities to pressure the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to lift the ban preventing celebrities from alcohol advertisement in Ghana should be entertained, especially because the motive for the ban is in the best interest of public health and the protection of our children.
Speaking for a large number of concerned Ghanaians, we are devastated by the insistence of some of the celebrities to be permitted to endorse alcohol beverages despite all the clarifications and reasons that have been given in support of the public health directive. We are of the view that the selfish interest of a few of these celebrities should not be entertained, but resisted by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the international community and all well-meaning Ghanaians.
The role and influence of celebrities on our children can never be over emphasized. Children listen when celebrities talk, and this is what the alcohol industry has been trying to take advantage off by using celebrities to make profit, and to also introduce our children to the unwholesome practice of alcohol consumption.
A song released by a celebrity musician would take only few minutes for almost every kid to start singing along. Which is why I am of the view that a celebrity advertising an alcoholic beverage would be seen as a good example by children and young people, and the (tautology) result is obvious.
Ghanaian Celebrities should use their popularity to promote health and wellbeing and positivity, but not things that would lead to their own destruction and that of our children. Why would anyone want to expose our children to a product that affects almost every aspect of human life – alcohol consumption leads to cancer, heart failures, cardiovascular diseases, hypertensions, diabetes, stroke, among others, including domestic violence, road crashes and abject poverty.
I am more disturbed by the fact that most of these celebrities themselves do not even drink alcohol or are trying to get out of alcohol addiction, yet they want to drag our children and poor people into alcoholism. Children and the poor because the cost of the product is very cheap and accessible. It is an industry strategy to attract new consumers always and that is why the focus has been more on our children and the youth.
I do share the concerns of those who say parents must be responsible for the upbringing of their children, however, it is important to remind ourselves how many hours we parents spend with our children these days, (especially the wealthy few)? Is it not a fact that most children of today are left at the mercy of caretakers and teachers some of whom might be morally derailed? Let us sanitize the system to protect our children, otherwise the future looks very gloomy.
This singular action by the FDA has raised the profile of Ghana among the international community as the country has been widely applauded for implementing one of the Best Buys of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ghana cannot compare itself to other developed countries in terms of how alcohol is controlled. In some of those countries, despite the fact that celebrities do advertise alcoholic beverages, the restrictions on the implementation are such that when it is implemented in Ghana, most alcohol industries would fold up. For instance in Ghana, alcohol is sold everywhere and accessible to everybody old and young, no centers for alcohol dependence rehabilitation etc.
When celebrities get to endorse alcoholic beverages, they get a lot of money to develop themselves, but this is to the detriment of the poor.
The Parliament of Ghana would once in a while talk about the need to regulate the alcohol industry. When the issue came up on the floor of the House in 2017, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ashaiman constituency, Ernest Norgbey called out the use of celebrities to appeal to the youth through commercials to lure them into drinking. He said when children watch and listen to these commercials, and this predisposes the nation to a time bomb. It is only a matter of time before it explodes. This is a clear indication that our MPs are in support of the call to action to protect our children.
If the global community is commending Ghana for this singular efforts, there is no turning back.
By Labram M. Musah
The writer is the Programmes Director at Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and National Coordinator for Ghana NCD Alliance,