World No Tobacco Day will be celebrated on May 31 under the theme ???Tobacco Health Warnings???.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this theme places emphasis ???on picture warnings that have been shown to be particularly effective at making people aware of the health risks of tobacco use and convincing them to quit.???
WHO created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and its lethal effects.
Tobacco is the number one preventable epidemic that the health community faces. According to a statement from the Ministry of Health, some 8.4 percent of the adult population in Barbados are current smokers comprising 15.4 percent of adult males and 2.2 percent of adult females. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2007 of 13-15 year old secondary school children, showed an increasing trend and suggested that up to 15 percent of children in this age group are current smokers or have experimented with tobacco products within the recent past. The average age of initiation of smoking was 19 years.
In September 2004, Barbados signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and ratified it in November 2005. This is a landmark public health treaty that has been signed by over 120 countries. The convention uses a collective agreement through governmental agencies to advance prevention and control strategies for tobacco.
It gives member states a framework and guide through a series of articles related to legislation, taxation, packaging and labeling, illicit trade and counterfeit products and public education.
As a signatory to the convention Barbados is obligated to take the necessary steps to fulfill this mandate which involves the changing and enactment of new and existing policies and programmes related to tobacco control.
Thus far, the Health Ministry???s responses to the prevention and control of tobacco have been to initiate legislation to ban tobacco smoking in public places, as well as to prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors. ??It also includes public education and working with the Barbados National Standard Institute (BNSI) to develop a Caribbean standard for packaging and labeling of tobacco products. The fourth measure has been the increase in taxes on tobacco products by 100 percent, which was enforced in the Financial and Budgetary Proposals of 2008-2009.
With respect to the collaboration between the Ministry of Health, and the BNSI, manufacturers and distributors will be bound by this regional standard and there will be specific regulations as it relates to pictorial graphics, word content and placement of warnings on every package of tobacco and cigarette products.
There is indisputable evidence that tobacco smoking is addictive and that there is a clear link between many disease processes and the smoking of tobacco products.
There is tremendous financial and health care cost associated with the treatment of tobacco related illnesses.
The Ministry of Health is committed to working with local, regional and international partners in continuing the campaign against the harmful effects of tobacco smoking, including the National Chronic Non Communicable Disease Commission and the Pan American Health Organization to move the effort forward.