Addiction is tobacco's main evil, psychiatrist tells committeeWednesday, July 28, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
Psychiatrist Dr Winston De La Haye says that tobacco's main threat to the health of the society is the danger of addiction.
Dr De La Haye told a joint select committee reviewing the Tobacco Control Act, 2021, at Gordon House yesterday that women and children are often the targets of advertising campaigns, as they more easily fall into the smoking trap, and are diagnosed for diseases like lung cancer, which can be traced to addiction.
“As an addiction psychiatrist I get these patients many years later, in some cases already diagnosed with cancer, when they come for treatment. And so the fact is that it is internationally recognised that youngsters and women are targets of the tobacco industry, and this is of great concern for us,” he told the committee.
He said that once young people start smoking without the privilege of being educated about the dangers of tobacco smoke, they can become unsuspecting victims of the industry's “sexy-natured” advertising because the dangers are not explained to them early.
He said that the “sexy” billboards may well lead to the view that “it is very good and attractive, so why shouldn't I buy into it”, so that is really the doctors' concern.
Government Senator Saphire Longmore, who is also president of the Jamaica Psychiatric Association (JPA), joined in to inform the committee that tobacco is significantly known as a gateway drug, in that its use tends to lead to the use of other substances that can eventually become difficult to manage.
They were responding to questions from the chairman of the review committee, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who wanted to know, from their perspectives, what has been the impact on a healthy society from the ingestion of tobacco smoke.
Dr Tufton was also concerned about the difficulty in overcoming addiction, as well as some of the reasons advanced for the trial and subsequent use of tobacco by the society.
“It is extremely difficult. In fact, I will hasten to say that most people, even with treatment, will relapse. Maybe 80 per cent are likely to relapse, and that is the nature of addition in terms of the addiction potential of nicotine,” De La Hay said.
“A simple response, as well, is that why persons seek help is because they do not want to die. They recognise that they have a friend diagnosed with cancer of the lungs, they understand at that time they started smoking the dangers certainly needed to be explained to them. They don't want to die like their neighbour or like their friend,” he added.
He said that there is also the issue of health challenges that they can face; for example, when they can hardly breathe.
“When it reaches that stage it is a great deal more difficult to fight it off successfully, if at all, after smoking for 40-50 years,” he added.
Senator Longmore also told the committee that a lot of women who have been diagnosed with fertility problems have been smoking tobacco for a long time.
“There is no question that it raises fertility issues. I have actually had individuals pregnant in their first trimester, with tears rolling down their eyes, wanting to not light a cigarette and literally pleading with me, asking how can I stop the craving, to protect their foetus,” Senator Longmore said.
“So it is a very, very traumatic situation sometimes for some of the persons who are trying to give up the habit,” she explained.
Dr Tufton also wanted to know the typical response to why people started using tobacco at a young age.
“It is like the rite of passage. Everybody else is doing it. That myth must be exploded through the education, which they really must get. If they are not getting it at home, then the school would be the perfect place,” Dr De La Haye said, noting that many patients have admitted that had learnt about the dangers earlier in their lives they would not have started smoking.
The JPA, in its submission to the committee, also suggested that the second schedule of the Bill, which provides for the places where smoking or holding a lit electronic tobacco product or relevant product is prohibited, should be expanded.
“We find the existing list to not be exhaustive enough. It does not include, for example, markets or beaches, but we have bus stops listed. We suggest that you either expand the list, or include 'publicly accessed spaces, except in designated smoking areas',” he suggested.
In reference to the Bill's memorandum of objects and reasons, the JPA suggested that the paragraph which reads “….promotion of tobacco products and relevant products and smoking generally” should be adjusted to read “….promotion of tobacco products and relevant products and smoking tobacco containing products, generally”.
The JPA, in closing its submission, said that it is hopeful that the committee will move to adopt comprehensive tobacco control legislation, including all World Health Organization Framework on Tobacco Control obligations, as these would be would be applicable to the needs of Jamaicans.
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