Protecting the Jamaican Population from the Harms of Tobacco and Nicotine Use Imperative in the Wake of COVID-19 – says Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control ahead of World No Tobacco Day, May 31.

Protecting Jamaica’s population from the health harms of tobacco and nicotine use and preventing youth from ever using these harmful and highly addictive substances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is the focus of the Jamaica Coalition for Control’s (JCTC) World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) activities. World No Tobacco Day will be observed on Sunday, May 31.

Research has shown that smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-191. This knowledge has spurred the national WNTD theme: COVID is no joke, it gets worse with smoke. Though in Jamaica the WHO theme has been adapted based on current circumstances, the WHO theme Protecting Youth from Industry Manipulation and preventing them from Tobacco and Nicotine Use is still very relevant and highlights the tobacco industry’s targeting of youth in order to continuously supply a market for its deadly products.

“Preventing Jamaicans from becoming addicted and allowing their dreams to go up in smoke is the mission of the JCTC,” said chairman, Dr. Aggrey Irons.

Tobacco use kills more than eight million people annually, more than one million of whom die from exposure to second-hand smoke2. The tobacco industry uses manipulative tactics to market its products including such making them sleek and attractive, with flavours that young people like; films and TV programmes aimed toward youth; using social media influencers to promote their products; promoting and selling their products near locations and events frequented by young people and promoting their products, such as e-cigarettes, as reduced harm.

E-cigarettes and other vaping products have become the latest instrument used by the tobacco industry to attract a younger crowd and their use is now more common among Jamaican adolescents 13-15 years old than conventional cigarettes. According to the 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.7% of students aged 13-15 years currently use e-cigarettes, as compared to 11.2% of those who currently smoke cigarette3. The survey also shows that 10% of Jamaican youth begin smoking by age 11.

“It is up to us to empower to understand the health harms of tobacco and nicotine and the deceptive tactics of the tobacco industry. Additionally, the full effects of COVID-19 remain to be seen and we do not yet know the impact on the body years from now of exposure to the coronavirus today,” said Irons.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Jamaica’s accession in 2005 to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the only global public health treaty6.

The JCTC urges everyone not to be deceived by tobacco industry tactics and to refrain from all forms of tobacco and nicotine use. Remember that smoking kills and life is too precious to go up in smoke.