Tobacco control

Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease and this equates to one in five of all deaths from heart disease, according to a new brief released recently by the World Health Organisation (WHO); World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia.
The report, which was released ahead of World Heart Day (today, September 29), once again sends a strong warning to smokers of the fatal effects such action could have.
The report’s authors urged all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack, stressing that smokers are more likely to experience an acute cardiovascular event at a younger age than non-smokers.
“Just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease. But if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50 per cent after one year of not smoking.”
Dr Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group, points out that given the current level of evidence on tobacco and cardiovascular health and the health benefits of quitting smoking, failing to offer cessation services to patients with heart disease could be considered clinical malpractice or negligence.
He noted that cardiology societies should train their members in smoking cessation, as well as to promote and even drive tobacco control advocacy efforts.
Of note too is that the report shows that smokeless tobacco is responsible for around 200,000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year. Many young people are misled to believe that E-cigarettes are not as harmful as the traditional cigarettes, but experts have warned that they are equally damaging as they raise blood pressure increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19. The report points to a recent WHO survey which found that among people dying of COVID-19 in Italy, 67 per cent had high blood pressure and in Spain, 43 per cent of people who developed COVID-19 were living with heart disease.
In a more general sense, tobacco is responsible for over seven million deaths per year worldwide. This includes approximately 900,000 persons who die from diseases related to exposure to tobacco smoke. Over 40 per cent of all tobacco-related deaths are from lung diseases like cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and tuberculosis.
Guyana’s tobacco control law, enacted in 2017, follows several of the articles of the WHO Convention and mandates the adoption and implementation of a series of tobacco control policies that make it one of the most complete tobacco control laws. These include: 100 per cent smoke-free environments in all indoor public spaces, indoor work spaces, public transportation and specified outdoor spaces to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke; a ban on all forms of advertising and promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; health warnings featured on 60 per cent of tobacco product packaging, including images. It also includes a ban on the sale of tobacco products to and by minors, prohibition on vending machines sales; and a ban on the manufacture and sales of toys and candies, and any other goods in the form of tobacco products.
However, there is still much work to be done to win the battle against tobacco as approximately 78 per cent of all deaths here are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs); some of which we all know are strongly related to tobacco use.
We had pointed out several times before that having the necessary legislation in place is a good starting point, but there are many other challenges which health authorities here must address if Guyana is to really reduce the number of persons dying or becoming ill due to tobacco use or exposure. These challenges relate to monitoring and compliance, and enforcement of the legislation to ensure that the population is protected from the dangers of tobacco use.
In the report alluded to earlier, the authors remind that tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease. They explain that Governments can help tobacco users quit by increasing tax on tobacco products, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and offering services to help people give up tobacco.