Tobacco use declines, but young people still at risk

Washington – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) on Monday said that while the percentage of the population using tobacco in the Americas, including the Caribbean, had declined, novel products and misleading information from the tobacco industry, especially targeting young people, threaten to undo those gains

Speaking ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, PAHO director, Dr Jarbas Barbosa, called for effective policies to protect young people.

“The tobacco industry and its allies do not rest. Currently, they spread a lot of misleading information that promotes, especially among young people, the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

“Although eight countries in the region have banned the marketing of e-cigarettes and four of heated tobacco products, we are concerned that 14 countries have not yet taken any regulatory action in this regard,” he added.

PAHO said that the percentage of the population using tobacco declined from 28 to 16.3 per cent between 2000 and 2020 and that e-cigarettes are the most common form of electronic nicotine delivery in the Americas.

It warned that their emissions contain nicotine and other toxic substances that are harmful to both users and those exposed to them.

Barbosa said to address the growing health threat posed by these products, he is calling on countries to implement policies to prevent their use, especially among young people, as they can become the gateway to regular tobacco consumption.

According to PAHO, tobacco use kills one million people per year in the Americas, one every 34 seconds. In addition, 15 per cent of cardiovascular disease deaths, 24 per cent deaths from cancer and 45 per cent of deaths from chronic respiratory diseases are attributable to tobacco use. In the region, 11 per cent of young people use tobacco.

PAHO said since the entry into force of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, the region has made great strides in tobacco prevention and control.

Currently, 96 per cent of the population in 35 countries in the region is protected by at least one of the six recommended tobacco control measures.

PAHO said that in 2020, South America became the first 100 per cent smoke-free sub-region – where there is a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, and on public transport.

“These achievements allow us to be confident that the region of the Americas will reach the target of a 30 per cent reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use in those over 15 years of age by 2025, established in the WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases,” Barbosa said.

But to expedite progress, the PAHO director considered it “urgent to accelerate efforts to implement key measures that have fallen behind, including tax increases, a total ban on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco-products, and the adoption of mechanisms to manage conflicts of interest.”

World No Tobacco Day was created by WHO member states in 1987 and is commemorated every May 31. The aim is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is Grow Food, Not Tobacco.

“I call on all PAHO member states to accelerate the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including to support economically viable alternative activities to tobacco cultivation and environmental protection,” Barbosa said. (CMC)

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