Illicit Trade In Tobacco Products a “Clear and Present Danger” to Public Health in Caribbean

Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton. (Photo credit: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday October 9, 2019 – Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says the growing illicit trade in tobacco products is a clear and present danger to public health in the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

Dr Tufton, who was speaking at the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Multisectoral Workshop to ‘Promote the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products’, at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, yesterday, said the practice also has deadly consequences, killing eight million persons per year.

“It has been 14 years since Jamaica ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty. A lot of progress has since been made in the Caribbean, in advancing the demand-reduction provisions of that Treaty, including the implementation of smoke-free legislation, graphic health warnings and taxation policies,” he noted.

“There is no question that the ratification of the Protocol is a critical step in tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products and the related public health threat. It will also provide an important basis for international cooperation in health,” he added.

Dr Tufton pointed out that the illicit trade in tobacco also increases the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products, thus fueling the tobacco epidemic, which has left millions of fatalities in its wake.

“More than seven million deaths are the result of direct tobacco use and more than one million the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke,” he said.

The Minister said the Global Youth Tobacco Survey showed that for Jamaica in 2017, 15.6 per cent of students used tobacco products. It also showed that 14.4 per cent of students smoked tobacco, while 11.2 per cent of students smoked cigarettes. Additionally, 2.6 per cent used smokeless tobacco, the Minister added.

“These are not statistics to which we can turn a blind eye, and certainly not when we consider our youth, who are most vulnerable to the illicit trade in tobacco products,” the Health Minister said.

Head of the FCTC Secretariat of the WHO, Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, said “this phenomenon poses a serious threat to public health, because it increases access to cheaper tobacco products, thus fuelling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies”.

She called on countries in the Caribbean to forge a united front against the illegal tobacco market.

“A recent World Bank report on confronting illicit cigarette trade found that countries in the Caribbean region need to significantly strengthen their efforts to control the illicit tobacco trade,” she said.

More than 60 delegates, representing 13 countries, are taking part in the three-day workshop for WHO FCTC Parties in the Caribbean region.

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