The University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Health Sciences is welcoming Government’s announcement that it intends to soon propose legislation requiring warning labels on cigarette packets.
Deputy Dean, Graduate Studies, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, Cave Hill, Dr Alafia Samuels had given the grisly reason for the support when she said: “Half the people who smoke cigarettes are going to die from tobacco-related diseases.”
Government’s plan is consistent with the World Health Organization’s approach, and Samuels told Barbados TODAY yesterday that the UWI supports the recommendations of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which includes mandatory graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
Samuels is also director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre, which conducted a Health of the Nation Survey in 2015 and found that 11 per cent of Barbadian men and two per cent of women smoke daily.
To put the survey’s findings in context with the statement from Samuels, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) consultant in chronic disease prevention and control, at least five percent of Barbadian men and one per cent of women have been coming down with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) because of tobacco smoke inhalation, and will die prematurely.
According to the survey, notable among the smoking-related NCDs are heart attacks and strokes.”In men, the prevalence of current and daily tobacco use decreased with age,” the survey found. “In the age group 25-44 years, the prevalence of current tobacco use was 20.8 per cent; this decreased to 5.3 per cent in the group aged 65 years and older. In those aged 25-44 years, 13.4 per cent of men reported daily tobacco use; only 3.1 per cent reported smoking in the 65 years and older category. The mean age at which people started smoking was 18.6 years.”
Against that backdrop, Minister of Health John Boyce announced earlier this month that proposed legislation to slap health warning labels on all cigarette packets sold in Barbados had been prepared and is now awaiting a date to be tabled in Parliament.
In fact, Barbados may be woefully behind in implementing this measure as the island has been a signatory of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since 2004, and signatories to that agreement were said to be legally bound to introduce health promotion labels on cigarette boxes within three years of the convention coming into force in 2005.
“There are still persons who smoke although there is that direct link between smoking and cancer,” Boyce said on January 8. “We don’t want to be spending good money in areas where it could be avoided if we as Barbadians engage in good, healthy practices from the beginning.”
According to him, preventative measures against cigarette smoking have “one outstanding item – the labeling of cigarettes”.
“It will come under the scrutiny of Parliament very soon,” Boyce said.
“It will require sellers of cigarettes to include in their packaging, images which indicate to Barbadians where the continued smoking of tobacco will, or can, lead to these conditions.”
The WHO has stated that “large, bold health warnings with pictures save lives. They are more effective than small health warnings or those that only contain text. Warnings with images of the harms tobacco causes are particularly effective at communicating risk and motivating behavioural changes, such as quitting smoking. Images allow the transmission of health information to illiterate populations. Pictorial warning labels also act as a deterrent for young people by reducing the overall attractiveness of tobacco packaging”