Global drive to eliminate smoking

by Gercine Carter

The Caribbean has been urged to step up implementation of policies to ensure the region achieves its goal to become 100 per cent smoke-free by 2022.

As World No Tobacco Day was observed yesterday, representatives of public health agencies in the region joined voices in the call for Caribbean governments to follow through on commitments made to eradicate smoking as one measure through which the health of their people could be improved.

The 2022 global campaign aimed to raise public awareness about the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from its cultivation, production and distribution to the toxic waste it generates

The campaign also aimed to expose the tobacco industry’s effort to greenwash its reputation and to make its products more appealing by marketing them as environmentally friendly.

Participating in a webinar organised by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and the University of the West Indies, head of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr Joy St John highlighted the devastating impact of smoking on the region’s health, particularly as it related to the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

She reported it accounted for one out of six NCD deaths.

St John voiced CARPHA’s concern “that the tobacco industry is advertising to target young people to encourage them to engage in cigarette smoking, noting that this group soon became “hooked” on the habit after starting.

“Increasingly young women are becoming smokers to be cool, but there is nothing cool about reducing the productive years of life,” St John warned.

She added the incidence of cancer, emphysema or heart disease could be significantly reduced or even eliminated if people would desist from smoking and appealed for an end to “the unnecessary suffering” the habit causes.

Sir Trevor Hassell (FILE)

In his opening remarks, president of the HCC Sir Trevor Hassell asserted that smoking was a major risk factor in the high incidence of the NCDs plaguing the region.

He said that organisation existed to provide “the regional civil society dimension, as Caribbean Governments have sought to develop, implement, update and review comprehensive multisectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes, in accordance with the protocols of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Four inter-sectoral policy briefs towards a 100 per cent smoke-free Caribbean and two case studies were launched during the webinar, with subregional director for the Caribbean at PAHO, Dean Chambliss saying that tobacco’s “grave impact on public health continues to be devastating” with about eight million global mortalities, including the loss of about one million lives in the region of the Americas.

Chambliss noted that most of the Caribbean’s 13 member states were signatories to the WHO framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and appealed to all CARICOM countries to implement their commitment to becoming a 100 per cent smoke-free environment as made in the FCTC  agreement.

In particular, he urged those who had not yet put smoke-free policies in place, to do so. (GC)

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