PAHO: More gov­ern­ment ac­tion needed to re­verse smok­ing epi­demic in re­gion

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - – Caribbean360

Anum­ber of coun­tries of the Amer­i­cas have made progress in im­ple­ment­ing to­bacco con­trol policies de­signed to re­duce suf­fer­ing and death due to to­bacco. Yet much re­mains to be done to halt the spread of a prod­uct that kills ap­prox­i­mately a mil­lion peo­ple per year in the Re­gion.

This is the con­clu­sion of the new 2016 Re­port on To­bacco Con­trol for the Re­gion of the Amer­i­cas, is­sued by the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PAHO). The re­port pro­vides the most up-to-date pic­ture of the smok­ing epi­demic in PAHO’s 35 Mem­ber States 10 years af­ter the WHO Frame­work Con­ven­tion on To­bacco Con­trol (FCTC) took ef­fect.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, only half the pop­u­la­tion of the Amer­i­cas (the in­hab­i­tants of 17 of 35 coun­tries) is fully pro­tected from the harm­ful ef­fects of to­bacco smoke by laws re­quir­ing smoke-free en­vi­ron­ments in all en­closed pub­lic places and work­places and in the pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

The re­port also notes that large graphic warn­ings about the harm­ful ef­fects of to­bacco are manda­tory in 16 coun­tries (rep­re­sent­ing 58% of the pop­u­la­tion of the Amer­i­cas), while only five coun­tries (with 27% of the Re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion) pro­hibit to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing, pro­mo­tion, and spon­sor­ship, which are known to in­crease to­bacco use, pre­dom­i­nantly among ado­les­cents and women.

Higher taxes on to­bacco are the most ef­fec­tive strat­egy for re­duc­ing de­mand, since high prices en­cour­age users to give up to­bacco while dis­cour­ag­ing oth­ers from start­ing to smoke. This, how­ever, is the FCTC mea­sure that has shown the least progress. Chile is the only coun­try in the Re­gion where taxes on cig­a­rettes rep­re­sent more than 75% of their re­tail sale price. Other coun­tries— in­clud­ing Ar­gentina, Ja­maica, and Peru—have re­cently taken steps to in­crease tax­a­tion, though not as much as the 75% rec­om­mended by PAHO/WHO. “It is imperative and ur­gent to pro­tect all pop­u­la­tions against the epi­demic of to­bacco-re­lated dis­eases by fully im­ple­ment­ing the mea­sures set forth in the Frame­work Agree­ment,” said the Di­rec­tor of PAHO/WHO, Carissa F. Eti­enne. “Only if we act to­day will we have a to­bacco-free gen­er­a­tion and save mil­lions of lives.”

Smoke-free spa­ces; large graphic health warn­ings; bans on to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing, pro­mo­tion, and spon­sor­ship; and in­creased taxes are the four FCTC mea­sures des­ig­nated by WHO as “best buys”—or highly cost-ef­fec­tive op­tions— for re­duc­ing not only to­bacco con­sump­tion but also the bur­den of non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases.

To­bacco use is re­spon­si­ble for some US$33 bil­lion in costs to Latin Amer­ica’s health sys­tems, which is equiv­a­lent to 0.5% of the re­gion’s col­lec­tive gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP). Taxes on cig­a­rette sales cur­rently cover less than half these costs.

To­bacco is re­spon­si­ble for an es­ti­mated 14% of deaths among adults over 30 in the Amer­i­cas. More­over, to­bacco is the only risk fac­tor com­mon to the four main groups of non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases—car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, chronic re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, can­cer, and di­a­betes— which are re­spon­si­ble for 80% of deaths in the Amer­i­cas, 35% of which are con­sid­ered pre­ma­ture.

There are 127 mil­lion smok­ers in the Amer­i­cas. On av­er­age, 17% of the adult pop­u­la­tion con­sumes to­bacco, al­though the re­port shows that preva­lence varies across coun­tries, rang­ing from 39% in Chile to 7% in Bar­ba­dos and Panama, based on 2013 data.

Smok­ing is known to be bad for health yet too many peo­ple per­sit with the habit.

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