St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among countries that are today observing World No Tobacco Day under the theme “Tobacco – a threat to development”.
The day is being observed amid a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) that smoking and other tobacco use kills more than seven million people annually.
The WHO is also warning countries, including those in the Caribbean of the dire environmental impact of tobacco production, distribution and waste.
It said that tougher measures were needed to rein in tobacco use and urged countries to ban smoking in the workplace and indoor public spaces, outlaw marketing of tobacco products and hike cigarette prices.
“Tobacco threatens us all. Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air,” WHO director general Margaret Chan said in a statement.
In a report, the WHO warned that the annual death toll of seven million people had jumped from four million at the turn of the century, making tobacco the world’s single biggest cause of preventable death.
“By 2030, more than 80 per cent of the deaths will occur in developing countries, which have been increasingly targeted by tobacco companies seeking new markets to circumvent tightening regulation in developed nations,” the report warned.
It said that tobacco use also brings an economic cost with the WHO estimating that it drains more than US$1.4 trillion from households and governments each year in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity, or nearly two per cent of the global gross domestic product.
Here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment is making an appeal for persons who smoke to quit the habit, so as to protect their health, as well as other persons who are exposed to second-hand smoke, including children, other family members and friends.
Beverly Liverpool, the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Coordinator in the Ministry of Health is also calling on the government, to once again, consider increasing cigarette excise tax, in an apparent effort to deter persons from smoking. This will eventually lead to a reduction in the high probability of disease and premature death.
This is in keeping with WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 6 – which speaks to “price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco”.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control guides the global fight against the tobacco epidemic. It is an international treaty with 180 Parties including St. Vincent and the Grenadines.