A series of activities to mark World No Tobacco Day 2019, aimed at sensitising the population on the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, was launched yesterday by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo, at the S. Virahsawmy State Secondary School in Rivière du Rempart. The Deputy Whip, Mr Satyaprakashsing Rutnah, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurent Musango, were also present.
World No Tobacco Day is observed every year on the 31st of May. The 2019 theme chosen by the WHO, Tobacco and Lung Health, focuses on the negative impact that tobacco has on people's lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease as well as the fundamental role that lungs play for the health and well-being of all people. It is also a call to action for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and to engage stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control.
In his address, the Minister underlined the negative and significant impact that tobacco use has on health, especially on the lungs. Tobacco smoking, he stated, is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition where the build-up of pus-filled mucus in the lungs results in a painful cough and agonising breathing difficulties.
Dr Husnoo expressed concern regarding the high prevalence rate of smokers among the younger age-groups and highlighted that the risk of developing COPD is particularly high among individuals who start smoking at a young age as tobacco smoke significantly slows lung development. He thus appealed to the youth to say 'No' to tobacco, adding that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.
The population, the Minister pointed out, has to cope with a very strong and innovative tobacco industry which is relentless in its pursuit to expand its market worldwide, particularly in developing countries. 'Whatever the industry does, you, as responsible citizens, must resist as tobacco in any forms kills, and the tobacco industry will target you, the youth, as you are the most vulnerable and profitable asset for them', he highlighted.
The Minister reiterated Government's commitment to leave no stone unturned in the fight against the scourge of the tobacco epidemic to protect the population. He also called for the collaboration of one and all especially the youth and various stakeholders to pave the way for the adoption of a more concerted, comprehensive and sustained approach to address the tobacco problem.
Furthermore, Dr Husnoo underscored that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in many countries, yet, it is responsible for more than 7 million deaths every year. This figure is predicted to increase to reach more than 8 million per year in the next twelve years, unless strong and drastic actions are taken, he emphasised.
For his part, the Deputy Whip, Mr Rutnah, appealed to the youth not to get influenced by their peers to start smoking as its consequences are numerous. Tobacco also exacerbates asthma, which restricts activity and contributes to disability, and, early smoking cessation is the most effective treatment for slowing the progression of COPD and improving asthma symptoms, he said.
Mr Rutnah pointed out that exposure to tobacco smoke damages the health of both smokers and non-smokers. Compared to the non-smoker, the one who smokes has higher risk of having lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, strokes, and low sexual reproductive health, he stated. Tobacco use is a threat to everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background and has no benefits, he concluded.
The WHO representative, Mr Musango, for his part, highlighted that the WHO survey carried out this year has revealed that there are about 39 000 new cases of lung cancer detected, out of which 37 000 people have died, that is, nearly 96%. It was revealed that most smokers begun smoking at a very young age, when their body was in the process of growth, including their lungs, causing their lungs to stop growing further, hence, making it difficult for them to practice physical activities in the long run compared to non-smokers, he further highlighted.
World No Tobacco Day
World No Tobacco Day, initiated in 1987, provides an opportunity to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption around the world.
A series of activities are being organised by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, including: screening for Non Communicable Diseases, counselling, sensitisation campaigns and talks on the impact of Tobacco and a National Anti-tobacco mural fresco painting competition aimed at deterring the first puff of cigarette and smoking among youth which will be held between 10 to 21 June 2019 followed by prize awards.