The Antigua and Barbuda Tobacco Free Initiative (ABTFI) is happy to have once again completed critical activities in observance of the Antigua and Barbuda No Tobacco Week (ABNTW). This year the ABNTW commenced on 22nd May 2016 and is culminating today, 31st May 2016 – World No Tobacco Day. As is customary, the ABTFI extends sincere appreciation and gratitude to all who have provided support and encouragement towards the enhancement of Antigua and Barbuda’s tobacco control activities.
The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is: Get ready for Plain Packaging. The global tobacco control community is of the firm view that plain packaging will reduce the impact of tobacco marketing, tobacco promotion and tobacco advertising, ultimately leading to a reduction in tobacco consumption. A reduction in the consumption of tobacco products will then lead to a reduction in the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
The World Health Organization informs us that approximately six million deaths occur annually as a result of direct and indirect use of tobacco products as this includes exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco use is the one risk factor common to the four main groups of NCDs — cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes. It is also a risk factor for infectious diseases, tuberculosis and lower respiratory infections. Plain packaging can lead to a reduction in consumption of tobacco products and this reduction will result in a much lower prevalence of NCDs. Reduction in the prevalence of NCDs will alleviate the affliction and associated heavy health burden on humanity.
In an effort to control tobacco use and ultimately reverse the tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its member states have established a focused approach towards achieving this end. To this effect, a six-policy strategy has been launched and this is in practice within WHO member states based on country specific capacity. This approach denoted the MPOWER package, is comprised of the following six proven policies:
- Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies,
- Protect people from tobacco smoke,
- Offer help to quit tobacco use,
- Warn about the dangers of tobacco,
- Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and
- Raise taxes on tobacco.
Plain packaging promotes the global effort to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and in some instances it also contributes to protecting people from tobacco smoke. Tobacco use is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world. By enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and through initiatives which protect people from tobacco smoke, these efforts will inevitably lead to a reduction in tobacco consumption. Therefore, plain packaging of tobacco products is an extremely critical factor as it is directly linked to the reduction of reported cases of death due to tobacco consumption.
A very necessary component for effective implementation of plain packaging is legislation. The idea of plain packaging does encourage all countries to enact stringent laws which ensure that all stakeholders fully comply with necessary packaging and labelling standards. The ABTFI continues to lead Antigua and Barbuda’s quest for strong tobacco control legislation which fully supports the Articles of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. Antigua and Barbuda’s Draft Tobacco Control Act is on the verge of completion and it is anticipated that the final stages of legislative and parliamentary procedures for enacting this legislation will very soon commence.
Dear reader, the ABTFI continues to humbly request your very important support as we relentlessly seek to ensure that the path is prepared for the reduction in consumption of tobacco products. You are a very important and necessary colleague if we in the ABTFI are to be successful in ensuring that our youth and the rest of Antigua and Barbuda do not become victims of a product that kills millions of its users! So please support the ABTFI and play a positive role in ensuring that Antigua and Barbuda gets ready for plain packaging.
In concluding this year’s Chair’s Address, the ABTFI is again distinctly honoured to have addressed you through this forum on matters relating to tobacco control. The members of the ABTFI continue to welcome your questions, concerns and feedback. As always, your understanding and active support regarding ABTFI’s initiatives remain absolutely critical! Therefore once more, we humbly request your continued collaborative input as we seek to strengthen our resolve through the preparation and enactment of comprehensive tobacco control legislation in Antigua and Barbuda.
Breathe Free and ensure that others do also!