NCDA urges vape and tobacco users to commit to quit

Jamaica joins the global recognition of World No Tobacco Day on Monday, May 31 with the local theme, “Vape or Smoke? Commit to Quit: Your Body Will Thank You for It.”

Led by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), an agency of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW); the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC); the Jamaica Cancer Society; the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, and the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, World No Tobacco Day in Jamaica calls for people to quit vape and tobacco use now, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tobacco-related ailments kill more than six million people a year globally and combined with COVID-19, smoking is even more lethal. As with COVID-19, tobacco smoke attacks the lungs and reduces its function–compromises the immune system of a smoker, making it harder to fight off the COVID-19 virus, and places smokers at higher risk of severe complications. People who do not smoke are also at risk, as second-hand smoke kills more than one million people per year.

PAHO/World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative for Jamaica, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, says that globally, millions of people say they want to quit, but only 30% have access to the tools that can help them do so. PAHO/ WHO is working with its partners to provide people with the tools and resources they need to be able to quit.

“Now is the time to quit!” Dr. Theodore-Gandi implores, pointing out that the WHO has listed 100 reasons why it is imperative to quit tobacco use now.

At the same time, the World Health Organization is encouraging countries to advocate for strong tobacco-control policies. In this regard, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton points to the Tobacco Control Bill tabled in Parliament as the Government seeks to strengthen its ability to protect the health outcomes of Jamaicans.   

“As the Ministry advances its agenda to combat the effect of non-communicable diseases on the population, the Bill will place us at an advantage to protect people from inducements to use tobacco products, protect our children and promote the spread of information about the addictive effects of tobacco use. This will benefit the overall health of our nation,” Dr. Tufton noted. 

The new bill is intended to address gaps in the current legal framework and will make Jamaica fully compliant with the World Health Organization’s Framework on Tobacco Control.
Activities of World No Tobacco Day 2021         

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse, Mr. Michael Tucker, highlights that Jamaica’s theme for World No Tobacco Day 2021 will help to remind people who use vape and tobacco products that their physical health begins improving immediately upon quitting.

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been on a mission to encourage Jamaicans to love their bodies and treat their bodies right, and part of loving your body and treating it right, is through quitting vape and tobacco use now. Jamaicans who need help to quit should contact the National Council on Drug Abuse at 876-564-HELP (4357),” says Mr. Tucker.  

Among the initiatives being undertaken for World No Tobacco Day is partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information for a national poster competition and a smoking-prevention game-based competition using as its template Yale University’s Smoke Screen game. These aim to build awareness and refusal skills among primary and secondary students. “We must seek to protect the health and wellness of our youth, particularly with the growing popularity of vaping across the world,” Mr. Tucker added.    

Other initiatives for World No Tobacco Day 2021 include training for primary care providers to provide brief tobacco interventions among patients seen in the primary care setting. A range of healthcare providers including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, among others are participating in this PAHO-led exercise. Additionally, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is seeking to make smoking cessation aids available, which in association with counselling can facilitate quitting smoking and coping with life stressors. 

May 31 marks the annual observation of World No Tobacco Day to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.