“If you quit at anytime, it is better than continuing,” says Pan American Health Organisation/
World Health Organisation [PAHO/WHO] Resident Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow. According to Dr. Adu-Krow, while there are some changes to the body that can never be reversed, “once you quit, you cannot make them worse.”
Based on the data of a research release as recent as 2015, Dr Adu-Krow said that it has been found that if an individual smokes up to 10 years and quits, their anatomy can almost return to its pre-smoking state. However, quitting, Dr. Adu-Krow highlighted, will have to occur before the individual attains the age of 30.
Tobacco use, according to him, is a product that can negatively affect the entire body.
For this reason, Dr. Adru-Krow underscored, “we have to get people to quit early before there is organ damage, but there is no doubt that quitting has a place even after organ damage.
It still has a place because in public health, we say primary prevention is to prevent you from smoking, secondary prevention is to prevent you from getting the complications of smoking and tertiary prevention is to make sure the disabilities that will occur that can lead to death are prevented”.
He moreover emphasised that “if you have organ damage and you stop smoking you are not going to make your condition worse. Even if you stop after 30 years, you may not be able to reverse the damage done, but you can stop some complications.”
According to Dr. Adu-Krow, based on statistics of the 2015 Global Youth Tobacco Survey [GYTS] some 58 percent of youths have a desire to quit using tobacco. As such he noted, “If we give them that enabling environment then right there we are helping to break the cycle.”
He is convinced that the Tobacco Control Bill, which was last month passed in the National
Assembly, can help the process along.
As a deterrent to those who will try to tempt fate, the Tobacco Control Bill has a number of steep fines and penalties. Once the Bill is signed into law by President David Granger it will, among other things, allow for defaulters to be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $10,000 and $20,000 for any subsequent offence.
But according to PAHO Specialist for Chronic Diseases and Family Health, Ms. Karen Roberts, other measures will be incorporated in order to break the cycle of tobacco use, which has proven to be a monumental burden on the health sector, and by extension, government.
She noted that while educating the public on the dangers of tobacco use is important, it certainly isn’t nearly enough.
“We know that education alone doesn’t affect behaviour change, but what is going to have to be strengthened are some of the life skills programmes,” related Roberts. The life skills programmes, she noted, will entail teaching young people refusal and decision-making skills. According to Roberts, “those kinds of things are important…a key aspect that will work for young people is the ban on advertising promotions and sponsorship, because we know what a tricky advertisement or a very attractive advertisement, or an alluring advertisement, can do to the minds of young people.”
The Tobacco Control Bill is one that requires life-saving measures proven to reduce tobacco use, including picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and public places, and bans on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
As such, Roberts noted, “I think that it is going to be very critical, where we are going to have to ensure that there is no kind of advertising of tobacco and tobacco products, and I think in combination those, will have an impact on behaviour change.”
Tobacco is arguably the single legal product that is known to kill almost half of its users once used correctly. The use of this product has been linked to the prevalence of chronic non communicable diseases which accounts for more than 50 percent of the premature deaths that occur in Guyana.
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