World No Tobacco Day is designated by the World Health Organization to bring into sharp focus the impact of tobacco on health.
From 1987, this observance has been held yearly on May 31st. This year’s theme is, “We need food, not tobacco”.
The reason for its continued relevance is clear as we see members of our family, friends, co-workers and loved ones develop chronic illnesses and even die as a result of tobacco use or exposure to second hand smoke.
Recent data from Saint Lucia’s 2019 Behaviour Risk Factor Survey clearly presents a concerning picture as it pertains to tobacco use in Saint Lucia. Of note is that the highest rates of tobacco use are within the 18 to 44-year age group.
World No Tobacco Day observance provides a platform for countries to take coordinated actions that will, overtime achieve reduced use of tobacco products.
It offers countries the opportunity to pause and to reflect on what has been achieved and is to be done. Saint Lucia, through the Ministry of Health and national health partners, has achieved some significant milestones.
These achievements have been guided by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, referred to as the FCTC, to which Saint Lucia is a signatory.
According to Officer-in Charge of Saint Lucia’s Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat, Natasha Lloyd-Felix, Saint Lucia has made some notable gains which are guided by the FCTC.
“In 2017, Saint Lucia satisfied the requirements for labelling for cigarette packages with written and graphic warnings placed on all single sale cigarette boxes to indicate the health dangers of use. Additionally, Saint Lucia has applied a 63% ad volerem tax to the cost of cigarettes as a measure to discourage purchase. In 2020, Saint Lucia introduced Smoke Free Public Spaces Regulations as an amendment to the Public Health Act. These regulations have been recognized by the World Health Organization as a very bold and progressive step in our fight against tobacco use. These regulations provide protection against the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed public spaces where people gather for work, play and to commute,” she added.
More recently, in 2021 through the support of the WHO and Pan American Health Organization, a cross-section of health care workers and practitioners in the fields of social work, counseling and other helping professions, were trained to support people who are tobacco dependent and in need of support to quit the habit.
This training was followed by the introduction of three tobacco cessation clinics in Soufriere, Vieux-Fort and Castries as part of the suite of Primary Health Care services.
“In May this year, the Tobacco Cessation Programme was further strengthened through the donation of Nicotine Replacement Therapy received by the Ministry of Health through the generosity of the Pan-American Health Organization. These products will soon be offered as part of the treatment offered to clients who are chronically nicotine dependent. Though we can mark many milestones there is still much work ahead of us,” The Officer-in-Charge of the SAACS added.
“The Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat and by extension the Ministry of Health, she noted, remains committed to reducing the threat to health that tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke causes. We encourage anyone who wants to end a habit of tobacco use to visit their health care provider or the closest community wellness centre for guidance. Let’s work together to take all needed actions both big and small to positively transform the health of all of us.”