Guyana has to get more serious about the implementation of its Tobacco Control legislation, Country representative for the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Dr. William Adu-Krow has said.
Dr. Adu-Krow shared those remarks during an event held yesterday in observance of World No Tobacco Day. While he lauded the efforts made to have the tobacco control law, he also said that there is need for greater interest in its implementation and enforcement.
“They have got be more proactive, take today for example, the departments in charge of enforcing the tobacco laws—the Non- Communicable Diseases (NCD) Unit and the Public Relations (PR) Department were a no show for this event,” he noted.
According to the PAHO rep, it is this sort of attitude that has stymied the pace of implementation of the tobacco law. Guyana’s Tobacco laws were introduced almost three years ago but the Ministry of Public Health and other stakeholders have noted several hurdles to effective implementation.
For one, officials attached to the Enforcement Unit have noted that a lack of funding has prevented it from embarking on any major campaign. Asked about the issue of funding, Dr. Adu-Krow noted that PAHO is committed to assisting countries with such hurdles. According to him, the organization has been putting up a budget from which countries that need assistance can benefit.
“I understand that there may be some constraints but that should stop the efforts…if they need help, they should ask for it.”
Guyana became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on December 14, 2005. The convention is focused on, inter alia, introducing legislation around the world to ban smoking in all indoor public places, and outdoor public places; curtailing the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco; and ensuring that products are packaged and labeled with detailed health warnings.
However, it was not until July 2017 and after a five-year process, these efforts culminated in the passage of the National Tobacco Act. With the introduction of the tobacco control laws came a new set of challenges, chief of which were implementation and enforcement.
PAHO has noted that it is even more important to ensure that the measures outlined in the Act are implemented immediately, while at the same time countering the threats posed by interference from the local tobacco industry, aimed at reversing these public health gains.
Meanwhile to mark World No Tobacco Day observed on May 31 this year, the global body has been appealing to young people in the Americas to recognise, expose and resist the deceptive tactics used by the tobacco industry and its allies to recruit new, younger customer. In a statement issued by the organization Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO’s Assistant Director, noted that the tobacco industry needs young people to buy their products, which may result in nicotine addiction, so that they become long-term consumers.
She explained that, “This creates the opportunity to replace the 8 million people worldwide who die of tobacco-related causes every year. It is a matter of profits over people — an indefensible choice.”
“We urge everyone to become educated, raise awareness and help create a tobacco-free generation,” said Barbosa. “We each have a critical role to play.”
According to the release, tobacco makers and their allies in the e-cigarette and related industries spend some $9 billion annually on aggressive marketing tactics, many of them specifically targeting children and youth.
“Youth are a significant market segment for the industry, since studies show that 9 out of 10 smokers start before age 18. Globally, more than 40 million young people aged 13 to 15 have already started to use tobacco,” the statement added.
Further, the release said that with this year’s campaign, PAHO has joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in seeking to debunk myths and expose the deception of marketing by the tobacco industry and its allies.
“Tobacco advertising—which includes product placement in films, TV and streaming —tries to make smoking and ‘vaping’ look modern, sophisticated, grown-up and cool.
In reality, tobacco use causes not only serious illnesses like heart disease, cancer and lung disease, but also bad breath, discoloured teeth, and wrinkled skin. Tobacco companies also try to recruit new users by sponsoring scholarships, youth camps, concerts and sporting events. Furthermore, smokeless and water pipe tobacco are also sold in sweet and fruity flavours to appeal to children and young people.”
PAHO noted in the release that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry has continued to promote products that limit people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease. The industry has offered free branded masks and their home delivery during quarantine and has lobbied for its products to be listed as “essential”.
The Global Health Organization is therefore calling on young people to join together to become a “tobacco-free generation.”
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