Health Minister Dwayne Seymour, in a message to mark Thursday’s World No Tobacco Day, said the Cayman Islands had begun discussions to fully ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The convention was adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland in 2003. Mr. Seymour said Cayman was already a signatory to the treaty through the U.K. His ministry of Health, Public Health England and the Pan American Health Organization are currently in discussions over full ratification, he said.

“This process will require us to take very specific steps, including addressing tobacco advertising, promotion, packaging and sponsorship,” the minister said.

The observance of World Tobacco Day this year focuses on tobacco as the leading cause of heart and cardiovascular diseases, which are the leading cause of death for people worldwide. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease, after high blood pressure, Mr. Seymour pointed out, stating that in Latin America and the Caribbean, 31 percent of all deaths are attributable to heart disease.

“It is further estimated that the number of deaths in the region due to CVD will increase by more than 60 percent by 2020, unless preventive measures are introduced and practiced,” he said.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency is urging individuals to be aware that hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, may be caused by the use of tobacco.

Mr. Seymour said the availability of blood pressure machines, funded by government, at the Government Administration Building and the Health Services Authority, helps residents “stay in the know” about their blood pressure numbers.

The minister acknowledged anti-smoking efforts already made in Cayman. “The implementation of a ban on smoking in public places has allowed us to protect people from the effects of secondhand smoke,” he said. “The corresponding adoption of a Tobacco Registry allows us to monitor tobacco use while higher import duty on tobacco products, we hope, will make them less affordable.”

Mr. Seymour said the Public Health Department regularly offers free classes on smoking cessation. A new round of these sessions is set to start this week.

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