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2020 World No Tobacco Day Focuses on Youth
Tobacco is a preventable risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, lung and heart diseases. Despite these well-known facts, tobacco use remains high globally and is a major risk factor for NCDs in the Pacific.
31st May marks World No Tobacco day and this year’s theme is protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.
Tobacco and Pacific youth
Tobacco use among Pacific youth is a major concern. For example, 51.9% of youth in Tokelau are current cigarette smokers and 35.7% in Niue are current users of e-cigarettes, according to the World Health Organisation’s Global Youth Tobacco Survey reports, for those aged between 13 and 15 years.
Reports also suggest that approximately half of the adult populations aged 25-64 years smoke daily in countries such as Kiribati, Tokelau, Nauru and Wallis and Futuna.
What are we doing?
The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Public Health Division (PHD), in collaboration with development partners, continues to work in the region to provide technical support to member countries to positively influence policy dialogue and strengthen political leadership in responding to the NCD crisis.
SPC also recognizes the value of engaging and investing in Pacific youth to address tobacco use. One of SPC’s initiatives, the “WAKE Up” project addresses NCDs and youth, and has empowered Pacific youth with graphic design and social media communication skills ensuring they are key stakeholders and strong advocates in tobacco control, through creative initiatives.
Our youth are the future leaders of the Pacific region and it is our responsibility to ensure that we do everything within our power to educate, raise awareness and administer policies and legislation to protect them from the significant negative consequences of tobacco use.
The Pacific Monitoring Alliance for NCD Action (MANA) has been established by SPC to monitor progress on the implementation of the Pacific NCD roadmap including tobacco control recommendations.
Through development partners’ collaborative efforts, we have made real progress. Most Pacific Island Countries have legislation to create smoke-free public places, and there are now health warnings on tobacco packaging, restrictions on tobacco sales and licensing and restrictions on tobacco advertising, however some countries have yet to strengthen enforcement measures.
Preventing tobacco industry interference is still a key policy gap in most Pacific Island Countries. Industry interference can hinder a government’s effort on tobacco control and therefore it is crucial for Pacific leaders to address industry manipulation and to continue to discourage our youth from tobacco use.
Tobacco and COVID-19
With the current health crisis due to COVID-19, and increasing evidence showing comorbidities of COVID-19 and NCDs, the Pacific is an especially vulnerable region. Evidence has shown that smokers comprised approximately a quarter of the COVID-19 patients who were admitted to intensive care unit, needed mechanical ventilation, or died. These NCD comorbidities may intensify the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the Pacific and will significantly impact health, social and economic development across the region unless urgent action is taken on tobacco control.