Wed | Aug 10, 2022

Smoking is harmful to your health

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2022 | 12:09 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Second-hand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year. Second-hand smoke causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults.

Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slowed lung growth.

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people a year around the world. More than seven million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide. Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis and kreteks.

Here in Jamaica, tobacco is responsible for 11 per cent of all NCDs, 3 per cent of communicable deaths in Jamaica. Within the NCD disease group, ischaemic heart disease accounted for 324 deaths per 100,000 population aged 30 years and over, with six per cent of these deaths attributed to tobacco.

Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung accounted for 31 deaths per 100,000 population aged 30 years and over, with 71 per cent of these deaths attributed to tobacco. Within the communicable disease group, deaths attributed to tobacco accounted for 10 per cent of all lower respiratory infection deaths and eight per cent of all tuberculosis deaths.

The proportion of deaths attributable to tobacco was almost 12 per cent for men and six per cent for women. Among those who died prematurely, almost one in every 44 deaths among those aged 30 to 44 and one in 10 among those 45 to 59 years were attributable to tobacco use.

Jamaica became a party to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on October 5, 2005.

There is a comprehensive ban on smoking in indoor public places, indoor workplaces, and public transport. The law also prohibits smoking in several outdoor places and within five metres of entrances, exits, windows, and ventilation intakes of a public place, workplace, or public transport.

The Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013 is the primary piece of legislation regulating tobacco control in Jamaica. The law establishes smoke-free places and large graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging, among other things. The regulations were amended by the Public Health (Tobacco Control) (Amendment) Regulations, 2014, which reduced the size of the graphic health warnings, updated the non-exhaustive list of places where smoking is prohibited, and changed the penalty provisions, among other things.

There is no single piece of legislation that addresses tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Instead, several laws address certain means of advertising generally. In December 2020, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, tabled the ‘Tobacco Control Act, 2020’ in Parliament. The proposed legislation is currently being considered by a joint select committee, chaired by the minister.

Following its initial meeting on February 2021, the joint select committee sought to adopt a consultative approach to examining the bill. Invitations were therefore extended to ministries, departments and agencies, the public and interested entities including the tobacco industry to make submissions. To date, several entities, including Carreras Limited, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and PAHO have made submissions.

The passage of the bill will allow Jamaica to be fully compliant with its treaty obligations under the WHO FCTC. The proposed legislation will protect Jamaicans, including children and the vulnerable, from the harmful and addictive effects of tobacco use.

Source: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Pan American Health Organization.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com