Aug 08, 2017 News
– in wake of legislative moves to control cigarette smoking
“I was appalled to read in the newspaper on Saturday that DEMTOCO is saying that the Government stands to lose $4 billion a year from taxes. Yes, but we are also going to gain not spending over $4 billion in curing people who fall sick or get cancer. It is not an issue of the jury is out, the jury has already come in with its verdict and the verdict is guilty for tobacco.”
By Sharmain Grainger
“Nobody is banning smoking! But if you need to smoke, go somewhere else and smoke where there are no people around.”
This was the passionate declaration of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation [PAHO/WHO]’s local representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, in response to those who have spoken against moves in favour of the control of tobacco smoking.
In fact, Dr. Adu-Krow was only too eager yesterday to weigh-in on the opposing stance taken by the Demerara Tobacco Company Limited [DEMTOCO] in relation to the recent passage of the Tobacco Control Legislation Bill in the National Assembly.
“You would be surprised that the tobacco companies use the same argument everywhere in the world. They did it in the United States, they did it in Australia; they took the governments to court and lost. They did it in Barbados, they did it in Trinidad, they did it in Jamaica and they are doing the same thing here,” an evidently irked Dr. Adu-Krow vocalized during an interview with this publication.
“What baffles me, is that they don’t even change their tune; it’s the same song that they sing all the time,” said Dr. Adu-Krow.
Added to this, the PAHO/WHO representative said, “I was appalled to read in the newspaper on Saturday that DEMTOCO is saying that the Government stands to lose $4 billion a year from taxes. Yes, but we are also going to gain, not spending over $4 billion in curing people who fall sick or get cancer. It is not an issue of the jury is out, the jury has already come in with its verdict, and the verdict is guilty for tobacco.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented before being put in tobacco products such as cigarettes. NIDA is a United States federal-government research institute which has a mission to “lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction”.
The body has been able to deduce that tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit. However, there are also many other potentially harmful chemicals found in tobacco or are created by burning it. Experts have found that “cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known carcinogenic [cancer-causing] compounds and 400 other toxins.”
This message is one that the Ministry of Public Health has long been amplifying on the airwaves in its attempt to dissuade persons from embracing the habiting of smoking tobacco.
Among the dreadful ingredients of cigarettes are nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde [chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products], ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT.
DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane is a colourless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline organochlorine known for its insecticidal properties and damaging environmental impacts.
Chronic Diseases Coordinator within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Kavita Singh, has publicly said that the impact of tobacco smoke has proven to be a major burden for the health sector. This is in light of the fact, she noted, that tobacco has been a major contributor to chronic non-communicable diseases [NCDs] for which the Public Health Ministry has been battling to control its impact. NCDs include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancers.
Dr. Adu-Krow yesterday theorized that if the Ministry of Public Health’s budget is $17 billion, a great deal of that sum goes towards treating NCDSs, including cancers and mental health. These conditions, he revealed, account for 78 percent of the country’s mortality and morbidity. As such, he noted that if the tobacco company’s sales decline by $4 billion, it will in essence mean that the health sector will be faced with fewer health conditions that tobacco smoking is known to cause.
According to Dr. Adu-Krow, tobacco smoking is one causative factor that can affect almost all organs of the body. “It gives you cancer of the mouth, it stains your teeth, it gives you bad breath, it can give you cancer of the esophagus, then it travels to the stomach and causes cancer of the stomach,” the PAHO/WHO Rep disclosed.
He noted that there is undisputable evidence to substantiate that among people who smoke tobacco regularly, similar to those who utilize other spicy foods such as pepper, there is a higher correlated rate of cancer of the stomach.
Tobacco smoking can even result in cancer of the colon, according to Dr. Adu-Krow.
Although smoke does not pass through the pancreas, there is evidence to support that it can lend to the development of cancer of the pancreas which, according to Dr. Adu-Krow, is one of the most difficult cancers to treat.
According to the experts at the United States-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, a subsidiary of the John Hopkins Home Care Group Inc, “Cigarette smoking doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer. In fact, some scientists have estimated that one in four, or one in five cases of pancreatic cancer are caused by smoking cigarettes.”
But the officials of the Johns Hopkins Medicine have also concluded that “…the risk of pancreatic cancer drops close to normal in people who quit smoking. Simply put, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of pancreatic cancer.”
Tobacco use has also been highly correlated with cancer of the lung cancer, which is the fifth leading cause of cancer in Guyana. Lung cancer, she noted, accounts for 10 percent of all cancers that are recorded annually. But, according to Dr. Singh, “Our health care system has a major gap whereby we only have one public institution that offers a sparse amount of care as it relates to Oncology and that is the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.”
She added, “Anything out of that is usually private and it’s as a result that we do not have a comprehensive cancer prevention and control plan. So tobacco use already again adds to the existing huge burden.”
“I keep saying, tobacco is the only product, even if you use it by the manufacturers’ guidelines, you still die. It is the only product that when used right, kills its consumers by at least half every 10 years,” lamented Dr. Adu-Krow.
The Tobacco Control Bill, which has to be assented to by President David Granger before it becomes law, provides for the adoption and implementation of tobacco control policies in accordance with WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC].
Once in place, the legislation will serve as the legal regulator for the administration, inspection and enforcement of cigarettes. It will therefore provide, among other things, legislative protection to members of the public from exposure to second-hand smoke by eliminating public smoking and the prevention of tobacco use by minors.
The enforcement of the legislation is backed by penalties including: fines of up to $200,000 and six months imprisonment for persons who violate its stipulations, and fines of up to $9 million for defiant business owners.
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