Celebrate without tobacco

Every year on 31 May, we join the World Health Organization’s celebration of World No Tobacco Day. This day draws global attention to the negative effect tobacco use has on our health while also advocating for effective policies to reduce consumption.

Tobacco kills one in 10 adults worldwide making it the second largest cause of death (after hypertension), according to the World Health Organization. In the 20th Century alone, tobacco usage contributed to 100 million deaths. If current trends continue it will cause up to 1 billion deaths in the 21st Century. Unchecked, tobacco related deaths will increase to more than eight million per year by 2030.

With the theme The Tobacco Industry’s Interference, this year’s World No Tobacco Day draws specific attention to the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, especially as more and more countries move to fully meet their obligations under this treaty.

For example, in an attempt to halt the adoption of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, the industry recently adopted the novel tactic of suing countries under bilateral investment treaties, claiming that the warnings impinge the companies’ attempts to use their legally-registered brands. However, this is just one of the many tactics of resisting tobacco control. We remain alert to any and all efforts by the tobacco industry to subvert tobacco control efforts and continue to stay informed of activities of the tobacco industry that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts.

I can proudly note that we are one of the 174 countries who are party to the FCTC. The Cayman Islands government is serious about its commitment to protect and promote the health of its residents by mandating a smoke free environment through our Tobacco Law 2008 and Regulations 2010. These legal mechanisms require health warnings, that can include graphics, to occupy at least 30 per cent of each display area of all cigarette packaging. The Tobacco Law also provides for smoke free public places, including all work places, bars, restaurants and parks. It prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors and requires retailers to verify customers’ age for any over-the-counter sales if there is any doubt.

In addition the Tobacco Law also prohibits tobacco advertising and promotion which the tobacco industry has in the past used with great success to increase their market share by glamorizing tobacco use.

I use this opportunity to applaud the continuous education efforts of the Public Health Department and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society in their message of prevention and cessation.

On this World No Tobacco Day – and for the very rest of our lives – let us join forces that cannot be broken; let us all share the same level of responsibility and commitment to ensuring that we play our part in protecting the health of present and future generations in the Cayman Islands.

Do it for yourselves first, each other and for our country.

Mark Scotland

Minister of Health

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