The Ministry of Health will be using World No Tobacco Day which is celebrated Thursday May 31 to educate young people about the harmful effects of smoking, including second-hand smoking.
Under the theme: ‘Tobacco Industry Interference’, this year’s observance will also expose the nefarious tactics used by tobacco manufacturing companies to increase their customer base and profits.
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Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on May 30, Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry, Dr. Sonia Copeland, said stakeholders have identified the need to design messages and tactics that will deter the youth from smoking.
This, she said, is imperative, as statistics from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) has shown that youth populations across the world, including children as young as nine years of age, are becoming increasingly engaged in this debilitating lifestyle habit.
Statistics provided by the Jamaica Cancer Society show that approximately 80,000 young people across the world become addicted to tobacco each day and, if trends continue, an estimated 250 million children and young people will die as a result of tobacco smoking-related illnesses.
“It is also an alarming and disturbing fact that tobacco use is growing amongst our female teenagers, and the prevalence rates show that there is now a higher percentage of usage in females than males,” Dr. Copeland stated.
“If we can discourage our adolescents and pre-adolescents from starting to smoke, then we stand a better chance,” she contended.
She stated that a targeted and well-designed approach has to be utilised to encourage deterrence and to ensure that the youth understand the dangers of smoking.
Regional Programme Development Officer of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Adrian Booth, stated that “tobacco tends to robs us of people in some of the most productive times of their lives."
Cancer, heart disease and/or respiratory illnesses are often associated with smoking.
Among the activities that have been organised to commemorate World No Tobacco Day 2012 are: a Healthy Caribbean Coalition Conference; the Heart Foundation’s Cessation Workshop; while the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will be hosting banner competitions, marches and fora island-wide.
Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has committed to advancing the anti-smoking legislation in keeping with Jamaica’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The Ministry of Health is therefore encouraging Jamaicans to desist from smoking or burning tobacco or tobacco-related products in public spaces, in an effort to make Jamaica a smoke-free and healthy environment.
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS PRO