“We have to do something in terms of enforcement.” This notion was on Thursday amplified by Dr. Morris Edwards as he presented the findings of the 2015 Global Youth Tobacco Survey [GYTS].
Dr. Edwards, who was the PAHO/WHO Consultant for the GYTS 2015 Report, in addressing the need to raise taxes on tobacco products, underscored that it has been found that the cost of cigarettes is cheap. He revealed that some 90 percent of students who were assessed during the survey were able to purchase a pack of 20 cigarettes for up to G$500 or US$2.50.
Of students between the ages of 13 and 15 who were among the 1,697 survey sample, more than half [54.5 percent] were cigarette smokers who obtained cigarettes by buying same from a store, shop, street vendor or kiosk.
A report of the findings reveal that the Global Youth Tobacco Surveys are critical for gauging progress towards the World Health Organisation [WHO]’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] and MPOWER implementation and uptake.
GYTS, a component of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, is a global standard for systematically monitoring youth tobacco use [both smoking and smokeless] and tracking key tobacco control indicators.
In response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic, the 191 member states of WHO, unanimously adopted the WHO FCTC at the 56th World Health Assembly in May 2003.
The FCTC is the world’s first public health treaty on tobacco control. It is the driving force behind, and blueprint for, the global response to the pandemic of tobacco-induced deaths and diseases.
The treaty embodies a coordinated, effective and urgent action plan to curb tobacco consumption and layout cost-effective tobacco control strategies for public policies such as banning direct and indirect tobacco advertising, increasing tobacco tax and price, promoting smoke-free public places and workplaces, displaying prominent health messages on tobacco packaging and tobacco surveillance, research and exchange of information.
To help countries to fulfil their WHO FCTC obligations, it was revealed that in 2008 WHO introduced MPOWER, a technical package of six evidence-based tobacco control measures proven to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
The measures include moves to: Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; Protect people from tobacco smoke; Offer help to quit tobacco use; Warn about the dangers of tobacco, Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and Raise taxes on tobacco.
Moreover, the GYTS is designed to support WHO’s MPOWER by monitoring country–specific data on key tobacco indicators including prevalence, knowledge and behaviour.
As such the GYTS, as a school-based survey, enhances countries’ capacity to monitor youth tobacco consumption and tobacco use initiation, guide tobacco prevention and control programmes and facilitate comparison of tobacco-related data at the national, regional and global levels.
Results from the GYTS are moreover useful for documenting the changes in different variables of tobacco control measures for monitoring the implementation of different variables of tobacco control law and the relevant articles of the WHO Framework Convention, Dr. Edwards highlighted.
The rationale of Guyana’s participation in the GYTS, he said, included the fact that two percent of all deaths in Guyana are due to tobacco smoke. At the time of the survey, it was deduced that Guyana’s lung cancer rate stood at 12 per 100,000 population.
Based on the findings of the GYTS, Dr. Edwards said that it has been recommended that Guyana should consider rapidly implementing expanded comprehensive tobacco control measures.
The GYTS Report, which was in motion before the recent passing of the Tobacco Control legislation, according to Dr. Edwards, recommends the passing of laws that ban tobacco smoking in public places, and that they are enforced too. It also speaks to the important role of non-governmental organisations to lend assistance to youths interested in quitting.
Further, it was revealed that there is an urgent need to police more strictly, the existing law banning all forms of advertisement of tobacco products and paraphernalia in Guyana.
Also, it has been recommended that school rules and policies should be framed for the prevention and control of tobacco use.
The GYTS Report outlines, too, that there is a need to maintain a current understanding of tobacco use and other key indicators among youths, and to continue to gauge trends as it relates to tobacco use.
Guyana has conducted four rounds of the survey, but it has been recommended in the Report that such surveys be completed every four years.
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