The use of tobacco accounts for an alarming number of deaths worldwide, even surpassing the quota of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined every year.
Eshwar Raghunath made this disclosure recently. Raghunath, a Project Officer involved in a programme geared at tobacco control, highlighted the fact that although tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, more than five million people die from the effects of the addictive drug every year.
“If the current trends continue, probably by 2030 we will have about eight million persons per year. Tobacco is also a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death around the world.”
And according to him there has been an intensified drive by tobacco companies to recruit a new and younger generation of smokers.
He related that as a result, the companies are shifting towards developing countries because First World countries have implemented strict restrictions and regulations when it comes to tobacco.
According to Raghunath, based on research, at least 80 per cent of the people who will die as a result of tobacco will be in the developing countries.
Half of all smokers will die from tobacco-related diseases and second hand smoke will harm everyone who is exposed to it, he added.
“Tobacco companies are spending more and more money to get new clients as they try to keep their old users who have already become addicts.
“They are trying to replenish their market so they need kids they want to addict them. Research has shown that once you try tobacco at a young age it is likely that you will develop the habit.”
Aided by advertising and promotion campaigns, including the use of carefully crafted package designs, Raghunath pointed to the reality that the industry continues to divert attention from the deadly effects of its products.
It is for this reason he noted that efforts must be made to address the impact that the tobacco has on the society, a venture Guyana and a few other Caribbean countries have already embraced.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) through a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control obligates more than 160 countries to require “health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use” on packs of tobacco and their outside packaging.
It also recommends that the warnings contain pictures. WHO through its tobacco Free Initiative department is working to help the countries involved to meet their obligation by providing technical and other assistance.
According to Raghunath it has been proven that health warnings are an effective method to reduce tobacco appeals to those who are not yet addicted.
Before the end of this year, Guyana is expected to put in place health warnings, which will constitute visual displays of the impact of tobacco on cigarette packages. The health warnings Raghunath said will be implemented by the Guyana Bureau of Standards as the acceptable Standard for cigarette sales locally.
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