Saint Lucia observes World No Tobacco Day

By Ministry of Health

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(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that tobacco kills up to half of its user and that 80% of the world’s 1.1billion smokers live in low and middle to low income countries.

The St. Lucia Bureau of Standards and the Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat have teamed up to highlight the adverse effects tobacco use has on one’s health.

World No Tobacco Day observed on May 31st 2018 calls attention to the impact tobacco has on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide. According to the WHO, tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. 6 million of those deaths are directly related to tobacco use, while about 900 000 from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Consumers of tobacco products would now notice highly disturbing, graphical, warning labels on the products. Head of the Standards Development Department at the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS), Tzarmallah Joseph, said the SLBS has the authority to develop and promote standards for the protection of health, safety, efficiency, protection of consumers and the environment.

“We embarked on the revision of an existing standard which covered just labeling of cigarettes and with the revision we saw the opportunity to expand the scope and include labeling of all tobacco products. So we cover both smokeless and smoked tobacco products. The standard having been revised has some key features which would allow for monitoring of tobacco products coming into the island and sale the retail points. The most notable new feature is that of the use of graphic warning pictures or photos that show the cause and effect relating to the use of tobacco products.”

She added that in the development of the labeling standard there was wide consultation with various stakeholders including manufacturers, importers, consumers and retailers for review and feedback before final acceptance. The new labeling standard was adopted in 2016 but implemented in 2017.

“As of August 2017 we would not have been allowing any product which meets the old labeling requirements to enter the country. However, any product that would have been on the island would be allowed to be sold because we understand that we are in a transition period. So, you might still find products having no graphic symbols or warning pictures on them and that is because we have a phase out approach where, when all this product is sold on island, we would now see only those meeting the new requirement.”

Joanna Joseph, Deputy Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat (SAACS) said the public needs to be aware that tobacco is still an issue in St. Lucia.

“ The dangers of tobacco is something that we all need to be concerned about and what we need to do as a country, as people, as individuals to control the use of tobacco and our exposure to the dangers of tobacco.”

She indicated that SAACS heads the Tobacco Control Working Group, a multi-sectoral organization working to implement strategies for tobacco control in St. Lucia. Joseph said the new labeling standard is an important component of this strategy.

“When the graphic labels are implemented, persons get to see graphically the various dangers that tobacco smoke can pose for themselves, for their unborn children, for the young ones, even for men and their fertility. And, all of these things they get to see just how dangerous tobacco can be. So it’s a very important part of the strategy that is that is supposed to help to deter people from starting smoking and even those who are smoking to get them thinking about reducing or even stopping completely.”

With the implementation of the new labeling standard St. Lucia is now compliant with the minimum standard set by the WHO under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The last global youth tobacco survey for St. Lucia indicated that more than 30% of youth aged 13-15 yrs have used tobacco in their life time with almost 10% being daily smokers. A quarter of youth surveyed also indicated exposure to second hand smoke in their homes.

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