Background: African countries are a major potential market for the tobacco industry, and the smoking epidemic is at various stages of evolution across the continent. Ghana is an African country with a low prevalence of smoking despite an active tobacco industry presence for over 50 years. This study explores potential reasons for this apparent lack of industry success.
Objective: To explore the history of tobacco industry activity in Ghana, and to identify potential reasons for the current low prevalence of smoking.
Methods: We searched tobacco industry archives and other local sources to obtain data relevant to marketing and consumption of tobacco in Ghana.
Findings: British American Tobacco, and latterly the International Tobacco Company and its successor the Meridian Tobacco Company, have been manufacturing cigarettes in Ghana since 1954. After an initial sales boom in the two decades after independence in 1957, the sustained further increases in consumption typical of the tobacco epidemic in most countries did not occur. Possible key reasons include the taking of tobacco companies into state ownership and a lack of foreign exchange to fund tobacco leaf importation in the 1970s, both of which may have inhibited growth at a key stage of development, and the introduction of an advertising ban in 1982. BAT ceased manufacturing cigarettes in Ghana in 2006.
Conclusion: The tobacco industry has been active in Ghana for over 50 years but with variable success. The combination of an early advertising ban and periods of unfavourable economic conditions which may have restricted industry growth are likely to have contributed to the sustained low levels of tobacco consumption in Ghana to date.
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