BNDC to observe World No Tobacco Day with focus on COVID-19

Director of Bahamas National Drug Council - Dr. Novia Carter-Lookie

The Bahamas National Drug Council will commemorate the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), on May 29, 2020 with a Zoom Conference under the theme: “Smoking, Vaping & COVID-19.” “World No Tobacco Day” is a World Health Organization (WHO) annual day of awareness that has been observed on May 30, beginning in 1987, to raise further awareness to the harmful and
deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.

The BNDC is mindful that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to infection during the COVID-19 global pandemic because many smokers also have reduced lung capacity or lung disease due to years of abuse on their lungs. To this end, the BNDC will launch a campaign to empower local community gatekeepers to dispel myths associated with the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in our quest to prevent the health risk linked to the excessive consumption or misuse of nicotine.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use kills around seven million people worldwide every year because it leads to many illnesses like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, tuberculosis, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections, heart attacks, strokes, chronic heart diseases, emphysema, variety of cancers. As chronic non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in The Bahamas, accounting for more than 74 percent of deaths, there is a serious need to reduce the use of tobacco products. Tobacco can be used in many forms such as cigarettes, cigars, bidis, pipes, chewing tobacco, hand rolling tobacco, water pipes, and many more and so it is very necessary to enforce laws governing the sale of tobacco products to children under the age of 18 and to encourage no
smoking in public buildings.

The most effective measure to improving lung health is to reduce tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure. But knowledge among large sections of the general public, and particularly among smokers, on the implications for the health of peoples’ lungs from tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke exposure is low. Despite strong evidence of the harms of tobacco on lung health, the potential of tobacco control for improving lung health remains underestimated. For example of the 7000 chemicals found in tobacco products, 250 have been identified as poisonous, and 69 are carcinogenic (i.e. causes cancer). In 2013 the Pan American Health Organization spearheaded the Global School Health Survey (GSHS) to provide accurate data on health behaviours and protective factors among students.

The GSHS is a school-based survey conducted primarily among students aged 13-15 years. 1,357 questionnaires were completed in 27 schools, with 13-15 year olds represented 1,071 (78.1%). 5.2% of students reported smoking cigarettes on one or more days in the past 30 days. However, when asked about their lifetime cigarette use, 86% had tried a cigarette before the age of 14.

These numbers are of concern because they indicate that there is a need to conduct public education sessions to improve lung health by reducing tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure. These two steps can improve the overall health of lungs and prevent induce related diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections. Lung health is not achieved merely through the absence of disease, and being mindful that tobacco smoke has major implications for the lung health of smokers and non-smokers
throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the clarion call must go out that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of a one-third reduction in non- communicable diseases (NCDs), parents and guardians who smoke, must take measures to
promote their own health, and that of their children, by protecting them from the harms caused by tobacco use.

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