“When you have a statistic that tells you close to 30 per cent of children between 13 to 15 have started smoking, it is frightening.”
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh made this comment after public health adviser Dr Rohit Doon shared statistics on smoking and spoke about an imminent anti-smoking campaign during yesterday’s news conference at the Ministry of Health, Park Street, Port of Spain.
Displaying a jar of tar, Deyalsingh said: “Focus on how a good lung could look. Tar gives the lungs the bad look. This is the result of half pack of cigarettes for one year. This is the amount of tar that collects in a smoker’s lungs. Two of the people who got H1N1 (swine flu...and died) were heavy chronic smokers. The first part of the body that the H1N1 colonises is the lungs.”
Doon said: “Thirty per cent of young people between 13 to 15 have been initiated into smoking. It does not mean they are smokers.
“Kidney disease comes with hypertension. Secondary smoke is really deadly. It causes premature deaths in babies. It has arsenic, carbon monoxide and methanol which can cause pulmonary disease.
“Tobacco will give rise to abuse of alcohol, inactivity and unhealthy diets. Lung cancer—ten per cent is caused by tobacco smoke, ten per cent contributes to strokes and diabetes. There is a greater increase in the number of females developing cancer,” Doon added.
Kamesh Sharma, manager of the Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health, said the unit hopes to crack down on the illegal trade in cigarettes to cut down on the number of smokers.
The unit was formed in 2014 and its main function is to empower the young and youthful against the dangers of smoking and to bring awareness and sensitisation.
“Minors should not be able to buy cigarettes under age 18. There must be compliance issues and manufacturing and wholesalers must get a licence.
“We have had a number of successes with smoking cessation programmes. We have had electronic cigarettes. It is about empowering people to make informed decisions. It is about looking after the youth and young people,” said Sharma.