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May 29, 2015

World Tobacco Day Celebrated Locally

The National Drug Abuse Control Council marked World No Tobacco Day with an all day exhibition in Belize City. Every year, May thirty first is observed around the world to highlight health risks associated with tobacco use and other tobacco related topics. For this year, the focus is on ending the illicit trade of tobacco products. Today we spoke with Director of NDACC, Esner Vellos, who says that the illicit trade is bad business for many reasons.

 

Esner Vellos, Director, NDACC

“There was a high school survey that was done last year under the auspices of the University of the West Indies and the Organization of American States and that survey resulted in tobacco being the third most consumed substance in our nation. First is alcohol, then it is marijuana and then it is tobacco. And it is very important for us; data is a magical thing because with data you could do a number of things. and knowing that tobacco is the third most consumed substance, it means that the efforts that the National Drug Abuse Control Council is doing and should be doing to reduce the consumption of tobacco is very much important. So what we are doing now is that we are concentrating on evidence based program development and monitoring and evaluation of these same programs so that we can in one or two years know the impact that we have been having in terms of prevention programs in the country of Belize, including preventing consumption of tobacco.”

 

Esner Vellos

Andrea Polanco

“The consumption of tobacco—whether it is growing—would you say it is a problem?”

 

Esner Vellos

“It is a problem being the third most consumed substance, it is a problem. But our interest because of the data that has been provided to us is that younger people are consuming tobacco. And this is where I want to link it with illicit trade. We all know that we are importers of tobacco products. Belize is not a manufacturing producing country. Even the made in Belize tobacco brands are imported from Trinidad and Tobago. The fact that these are imported from Trinidad and Tobago and all the other brands are imported from the US and Europe, when they come into our borders through customs, they pay a tax and that tax is very high. So when you are importing through contraband or through normal purchasing across the border and you bring it into the country and you resell it, then that product is not gaining tax for the government. So what that means is that the product will be cheaper; cheaper means more accessibility, more affordability for younger people. So that is one of the areas that we have to link. Linking it also means that younger people that are consuming are starting to show health risks in terms of the consumption of tobacco.  The global youth tobacco survey of 2014, indicate that six point five percent of the overall individuals that were surveyed have consumed a cigarette. In 2008 that we did the survey, that specific question was not included, but NDACC and the epidemiology unit of the Ministry of Health felt that it was the right time to start to find out what are the trends of consumption of a cigarette. And as I said, six point five percent is a considerable number of young people between the ages of twelve to fifteen consuming these cigarettes. And why is this important and alarming for us? Because it is the younger community; a younger community that has access to the media, to very well established campaigns from the industry. And one of the most famous campaigns is that E-cigarettes are not harmful and that they are not as bad as the regular cigarette. But the evidence is there—medical and scientific evidence—that indicates that it is as bad as it is harmful. It is just that E-cigarettes are covered by a very nice flavor, but at the end of the day, it still contains the same carcinogenic substances. It also has aerosol.”

 

Under their awareness program, NDACC says that they’ve since included information on e-cigarettes.

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