World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2010
The significant health consequences of prolonged tobacco use is well known and an ongoing public education about the diseases that smoking causes has ensured that a large percentage of our population is very aware of the negative effects. The combination of carcinogens and addictive nicotine combined in tobacco (cigarettes) is deadly. Eighty percent of lung cancer in women is linked to smoking.
Surveys done by the NCDA in collaboration with WHO/PAHO in 2006 show that among our youth population 13-15 years of age, 37% (43.1% male and 31.1% female) had ever smoked and 21.9% (25.1% male and 18.2% female) are current smokers. An analysis of clients seen in our Treatment & Rehabilitation centres indicates that tobacco was the onset drug for 24% of all clients who sought treatment. The gap between male and female is narrowing and therefore, we have to target our young women specifically, as the risk factors increase.
Our youngsters have easy access to cigarettes and other tobacco products. In the general population, ages 12-55 years, our survey shows that 22.6% have experimented with tobacco (cigarettes). The NCDA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Cancer Society provides a significant amount of public education concerning the negative consequences of smoking. The agency also spearheads a focused initiative through the Prevention Education Programme that targets the in-school population throughout Jamaica.
People who use tobacco products become addicted over time. The approach to dealing with this addiction has to be prolonged and structured, often supervised by a health professional and requiring the support of family and friends.
The NCDA continues to advocate for people not to start smoking as this is the best way of preventing the complications that can arise from this unhealthy practice. Let us continue to play our part in ensuring that our young people, especially females, are not exploited by unscrupulous business people for their own gain.