‘Fuel your health, not tobacco use’

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A young woman smoking (photo: Cottorbro Studio)

The Ministry of Health & Wellness, (MOH), in collaboration with its agency the National Council on Drug Abuse and other partners, recently hosted a World No Tobacco Day event to raise public awareness about the dangers of tobacco use, especially among youth. The youth forum was staged at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel under the theme ‘Fuel your health, not tobacco use’ on 31 May which is celebrated each year as World No Tobacco Day. It included a panel discussion with youth representatives and saw the award of prizes to the top three participants from a primary school poster competition and a high school jingle and dance competition, which also formed a part of this year’s observance.

According to the MOH, tobacco use is a growing challenge in Jamaica, including among youth. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that in Jamaica in 2017 some 15.6 per cent of students (15.9 per cent of boys, and 15 per cent of girls) used tobacco products. This is especially worrying as it coincides with an increase in reports of e-cigarettes use or vaping by youth and children, locally. Most of these devices contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to smoke cigarettes as adults.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Wellness Paulette Spencer Smith said the Ministry is concerned by the numbers. “The Ministry of Health & Wellness is concerned about the increased reports of the use of e-cigarettes and vaping by our youth and we want to implore that demographic to take into consideration the long-term health effects these devices may have”, she said.

Spencer Smith  aid that the Ministry is making policy changes toward the creation of an environment that supports good decision-making on tobacco use, including among young people.

“The impending Tobacco Control Act (2020) is a response to these realities and provides for us a tool to, among other things, curtail the promotion and sale of tobacco products to children while also prohibiting the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes in public spaces; and encouraging the cessation and reduction of smoking rates in the country,” she added.

Additional data from the World Health Organization shows that annually more than eight million deaths worldwide are the result of direct tobacco use and some 1.2 million, the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

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