On Saturday, 31 May, the Cayman Islands joined countries around the world in commemorating World No Tobacco Day.
This year the World Health Organization has placed emphasis on preventing young people from smoking under the theme, Tobacco – Free Youth.
According to the WHO, most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of smokers started using tobacco before the age of 10. It has also been found that the younger the children are when they first try smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users, and the less likely they are to quit!
It is well known, too, that young people are highly susceptible to peer pressure, and easily influenced by the daily images that portray tobacco use as fashionable and socially acceptable.
As Minister of Health and Human Services I am well aware of the devastating consequences of tobacco. It is a huge international problem. Five million people die each year as a result of tobacco use, half of all long term smokers die from tobacco related diseases and hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked will die from diseases caused by second hand smoke.
Many people are still unaware of the lethal cocktail of chemicals associated with tobacco smoking. In fact, the harmful effects of smoking can damage nearly every organ and system in the human body.
Smoking is creating an economic burden on societies and stretching the capacity of health sectors to manage the health conditions that are caused.
I remain committed to ensuring that the necessary policy framework is implemented to discourage the consumption of tobacco.
There’s been a lot of interest in the draft Tobacco Bill, some of it just talk, but some very useful input as well, as a result of which the bill has been submitted for a final set of drafting revisions. Once completed, and approved by Cabinet, the Tobacco Bill will be brought back to the Legislative Assembly for debate. It is a far-reaching piece of public health legislation.
The bill will not stop people from smoking in private; but it should go a long way toward meeting the need to protect our youth, as well as the general public, from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke; for instance, we propose to ban the sale of tobacco products to persons under 18 years of age, and to make smoke free environments mandatory in all enclosed public places.
Laws cannot do it all, however, so I would also like to encourage everyone in our community to discourage our vulnerable youths from smoking.
I call upon parents, in particular, since values and principles are formed first in the home, as well as the teachers who are tasked with imparting sound knowledge for life; and I call on the young people, themselves, to roll back the use of tobacco and tobacco related products. It is both our duty, and it is in our own best interests, to protect the health and well being of the next generation.
Anthony S. Eden
Minister of Health and Human Services