THE World Health Organization (WHO) and its global partners recognise May 31 annually as World No Tobacco Day. The significance of this special day is to encourage people who smoke to quit and those who don’t to never start.
World No Tobacco Day is often celebrated by highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for the effective monitoring of the sale, distribution, consumption and promotion of tobacco products. Every year tobacco kills more than eight million people, seven million of which are due to tobacco use while approximately 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
In Jamaica, 16 per cent of men aged 30 years and over die from non-communicable diseases attributable to tobacco while six per cent of women of the same age range die from communicable diseases attributable to tobacco.
This year, Jamaica recognises World No Tobacco Day under the theme ‘Tobacco: Threat to Our Environment, No Butts About it’. Further, the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC), which was formed symbolically on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2002, in celebrating its 20th anniversary embodies the essence of World No Tobacco Day — to de-normalise the use of all tobacco and nicotine products; thereby supporting a healthy, tobacco-free society.
“On this, our 20th year, the coalition maintains support of the Government in this venture as it demonstrates a commitment to protect the nations’ children and by extension, the future of Jamaica,” JCTC said in a press release.
Tobacco and nicotine use affect the society on many dimensions. Globally 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed for tobacco manufacturing which leads to soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and productivity and disruption of water cycles. Tobacco also destroys the marine environment as cigarette butts make up one of the most common waste categories found on international coastal clean-up activities. Meanwhile, tobacco and nicotine use are associated with increased risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Data from the 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey suggest that e-cigarettes have become popular among young people with 11.7 per cent of school aged students using e-cigarettes compared to 14.4 per cent of students who smoke tobacco and 11.2 per cent who smoke cigarettes. Smoking among youth continues to be a major concern because they are regarded as the smokers of tomorrow. Historical evidence shows that 25 per cent of adolescents become addicted within a month once they start smoking.
Jamaica is currently in the process of reviewing the Tobacco Control Act (2020) which should guarantee a comprehensive legislative framework to monitor tobacco consumption, distribution and promotion.
According to JCTC, an effective tobacco control policy is essential in protecting young people as well as the public from the scourges of tobacco and nicotine. An important component of the legislation is the proposed ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
JCTC said this element will not only satisfy the country’s commitment to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control but also limit the influence of the tobacco industry on youth tobacco consumption habits. If smoking is encouraged within the young population, they will develop into adults who will likely continue to smoke for the rest of their lives.
Moreover, the JCTC has a rich history of working with the Government and non-governmental organisations to advocate for the protection of the public from the health risks associated with tobacco use.