World No Tobacco Day

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day tomorrow, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has revealed that new products and misleading information from the tobacco industry, targeting young people, threaten to undo gains made over the past decade to eliminate consumption.
Director of PAHO, Dr Jarbas Barbosa said: “The tobacco industry and its allies do not rest. Currently, they spread a lot of misleading information that promotes, especially among young people, the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products…Although eight countries in the region have banned the marketing of e-cigarettes and four of heated tobacco products, we are concerned that 14 countries have not yet taken any regulatory action in this regard.”
In Latin America and the Caribbean, tobacco use kills one million people per year. Worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has outlined that more than 40 million young people aged 13-15 have already started to use tobacco. In the region, 11 per cent of young people use tobacco. This, by any measure, is quite alarming, and one can only imagine the kind of impact this would have on our young people if urgent action is not taken to discourage such actions.
The WHO, for some time now, has embarked on a global campaign to highlight the “strategic, aggressive and well-resourced tactics” employed by the tobacco industry to target youths, and to debunk the myths they create.
The campaign seeks to provide young people with the knowledge required to easily detect industry manipulation – from product design to marketing campaigns – and equip them with the tools to rebuff such tactics, thereby empowering young people to stand up against them. The WHO described this effort as a counter-marketing campaign, as it would reinforce work in assisting countries to implement effective policy interventions to reduce the demand for tobacco.
Regionally, statistics show 15 per cent of cardiovascular disease deaths; 24 per cent of deaths from cancer and 45 per cent of deaths from chronic respiratory diseases are attributable to tobacco use.
Guyana’s Chronic Diseases Coordinator, Dr Kavita Singh has, in the past, lamented the fact that the tobacco industry is capitalising on new trends, targeting young persons. She noted that it was during this point in time that ‘big tobacco’ was using strategic marketing techniques to try to get young people to experiment with the new and emerging novel products, like the e-cigarettes and the heated tobacco products.
While there is a myth that these products are safe, they are equally as harmful as the smoke of an actual cigarette. According to WHO, smoking e-cigarettes and hookah pipes – marketed as “safer” alternatives to conventional cigarettes – is harmful, addictive, and increases the risk of developing heart and lung diseases.
Of note is that these products have the same tobacco, which has cancer-causing agents among other deadly emissions. The WHO notes that most of the countless flavours on offer – such as bubble-gum and candy – are there to attract youngsters, who at least double their chances of smoking cigarettes later in life.
It should be stated that 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 sale 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.