– E-CIGARETTES AND HOOKAHS ARE NOT HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES
On May 32, World ‘No Tobacco Day’ was commemorated and the Guyana Consumers Association felt that it should reiterate its long-held programme and policy of taking action to curtail and prevent tobacco usage in Guyana. The energetic campaign against tobacco usage was launched by Dr Leslie Ramsammy when he was Minister of Health. Dr Ramsammy was responsible for many improvements and innovations in the Health Sector. One memorable achievement was his crusade against tobacco and having the tobacco control Legislation drafted. He is now alerting the public of the risks of e-cigarettes and hookahs.
Tobacco usage is one of the world’s silent killers. It has many dangerous chemicals which, when ingested by snuff, chewing or smoking, deteriorate the body’s organs and cause several dangerous ailments, including heart disease, cancer, lung diseases, diabetes, and pulmonary diseases including chronic bronchitis. It also increases the risk of immune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis and eye diseases.
Tobacco usage causes gradual deterioration and debilitation of the body resulting in a fall in productivity in the workplace. When users fall ill, as they inevitably will, they put an added burden on the State’s Health Services. With falling incomes and even death, they bring much distress to their families.
The Guyana Tobacco Control Legislation is quite comprehensive. For example, it controls marketing: Cigarettes should not be sold to juveniles and should be sold by the packets only and not loosely; all packaging, in particular cigarette boxes, must carry written health warnings and clear pictorial warnings of examples of the damage to the human body and such should occupy at least 60 percent of the exposed space; non-smokers are protected from secondary smoke by having several smoke free zones such as public transport or parks or in hospital environs.
The anti-tobacco campaigns in the Developed have been successful, and tobacco usage has fallen to the extent that the Tobacco companies are now turning their attention to the Developing countries for their market, especially among the youth. In Guyana, the educational campaigns and the tobacco control Legislation promoted by Dr Leslie Ramsammy when he served as Minister of Health have had a measure of success and tobacco usage has contracted from what it was 20 years ago. Yet too much tobacco is still being consumed, and this could be gleaned from the fact that the Demerara Tobacco Company is the most profitable public company in the country.
The Tobacco Industry is always ahead of anti-tobacco activists to meet the expected fall in tobacco demand. They have put e-cigarettes, e-cigars, vapes, vape pens, e-pipes and vaporisers on the market. These e-products or electronic products use a liquid that usually contains nicotine from tobacco, flavourings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and other unwholesome chemicals. The liquid is heated to create an aerosol that the user inhales.
We reiterate that there are significant health risks associated with the prolonged use of these devices, including general disabilities, lung damage, seizures and other neurological symptoms. The continued use of these devices is just as dangerous to health as tobacco smoking.
Dr Ramsammy, Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, has alerted the public of the risks of usage of e-products: “While the Commission recognises the use of e-cigarettes in tobacco cessation programmes, the marketing of e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative to traditional tobacco is dangerous and misleading”. He then went on to point out that both e-cigarettes and hookah products are imported, distributed and sold in shops, stores and vendor stalls in contravention of the Packaging and Labelling Regulations (2018) passed under the Tobacco Control Act 2017. He further emphasised that the Tobacco Control Act 2017 equally recognises that the alternatives the Tobacco Industry have provided do not represent a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco products. Therefore, the Regulations in the Tobacco Control Act 2017 equally apply to these products. The Tobacco Control Council must now take action to have importers of e-cigarettes and other e-products and hookahs conform to the Packaging and Labelling Regulations (2018) of the Tobacco Control Act (2017).