Stop the rhetoric, lay the bill! – Dr Anthony

World No Tobacco Day today

By: Devina Samaroo

Shadow Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony is urging government to stop pussyfooting and act expeditiously toWorld No Tobacco Day today (clean) bring the draft Tobacco Control Bill to the National Assembly.

Guyana joins the rest of the world in observing ‘World No Tobacco Day’ today, however the parliamentary opposition spokesperson on health believes that the country in lagging behind in its efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco smoking.

In an official statement on Monday, Dr Anthony expressed that the government should stop giving lip service to the need to introduce stricter legislation to clamp down on tobacco usage.

“Do tangible things to address this public health concern. We would like to know: what is government’s strategy for the prevention and reduction of tobacco smoking in Guyana? When would the draft Tobacco Bill, already drafted by the previous Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration, be brought to parliament?” he stated.

World No Tobacco Day 2016 is being observed under the theme: “Get ready for plain packaging”; and is aimed towards highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on countries to get ready for plain (standardised) packaging of tobacco products, a method which restricts use of tobacco packaging as a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labelling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.

In this regard, Dr Anthony is urging government to comply with Article II (Packaging and Labelling of Tobacco Products) and Article 13 (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) which recommended the adoption of plain packaging of tobacco and tobacco products.

The draft legislation seeks to make all enclosed spaces, public places, work place and public transportation smoke-free areas; ban tobacco promotion and sponsorship; ensure clear graphic warnings on all tobacco products with the warning picture being 50 per cent of the cigarette package; and ban selling cigarettes by and to minors.

Recommendations have also been made for there to be increased taxes on the product.

Statistics and dangers

The former government minister underlined that there are about 1.3 billion smokers in the world, most of them from developing countries and all of them at risk for debilitating chronic diseases.

Dr Anthony emphasised that the impairment of peoples’ health by tobacco smoking is a serious public health challenge and should be comprehensively addressed.

The latest disease burden report estimates that globally tobacco kills approximately 6 million people annually. The global health care costs relating to tobacco disease is expected to increase to US$200 billion per year.

He noted that although several studies on tobacco use were completed in Guyana, particularly monitoring smoking by youth, very little statistics are available on the prevalence of tobacco smoking, and the health care cost has not been estimated.

But the school prevalence for tobacco smoking shows increasing numbers of young people smoking, and judging by what is happening in developing countries, this burden is significant, he observed.

A study conducted by the Global Youth Tobacco Survey showed that 21 per cent of students aged 13-15 smoke or had smoked in Guyana.

Tobacco smoke poses significant harm to primary users and those affected by second-hand smoke.

In 2012 the United States Food and Drug Administration published a list of Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents in Tobacco Products and Tobacco Smoke.

This lists identified 93 chemicals, these include 82 carcinogen substances, 24 respiratory toxicants, 12 cardiovascular toxicants, 13 reproductive or development toxicants and four addictive substances.

These substances when inhaled over time have been implicated in a number of diseases such as coronary heart diseases, cerebrovascular disease, aortic aneurysm, chronic airway obstruction, cancer (lung, larynx, lip, oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, bladder and other urinary organs, kidney, pancreas, stomach, liver, colorectal, cervix, acute myeloid leukaemia), it has also been associated with sudden infant death, infant respiratory death syndrome and low birth weight at delivery.