The government believes the findings of a 2015 youth tobacco survey is timely as Guyana welcomes new regulation on this front and anchors its move to enforce stringent tobacco control legislation.
The Report was presented on Thursday during an engagement between the Ministry of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation along with other industry stakeholders.
Junior Public Health Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings restated the government’s commitment to treating tobacco use with the seriousness it requires, as it continues to be a risk factor for the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.
Dr. Cummings believes the findings of the report reinforce the need to end smoking in public spaces and homes, especially in the presence of children.
“We need to ban cigarette smoking in closed spaces and especially in the home,” she said.
In fact, the report recommended, among other things, that laws be passed that ban tobacco smoking in public places or to effectively enforce such laws that have already been passed.
The government recently passed the Tobacco Control Bill in the National Assembly amid opposition from tobacco companies and now awaits the President’s assent before it rolls out implementation.
The Minister said the enforcement of legislation in isolation was not enough and urged citizens to use the data contained in the report to engender behavioral changes while reminding that the youth smokers of today are the adult smokers of tomorrow.
The survey found that there was a general reduction in tobacco use over the years 2000 to 2015, except in 2010.
Notwithstanding this, there were significant reductions in current tobacco smoking compared to 2010.
One in every three students was found to have used tobacco products at some point while one in every six students currently use these products. Males users are always higher than females.
Interestingly, one in every nine students was currently smoking tobacco and one in every 12 students is currently smoking cigarettes.
Additionally, almost two-thirds of current smokers age 13 -15 were showing signs of dependency and addiction while more than half of students were not prevented from buying tobacco products because of their age.
Exposure to tobacco in enclosed public places and homes also recorded a reduction since 2000.
The School based survey was jointly conducted by the Ministry of Public Health, PAHO/WHO, the Ministry of Education and the Centre for Disease Control.
The first of its kind was conducted in 2000 and repeated in 2004, 2010 and 2015 and included students between the ages of 13 – 15, generally from forms 1, 2 and 3. Some 25 schools were targeted with over 1500 students participating.