February 1, 2023

Message by Cayman Islands Minister of Health Hon. Dwayne Seymour to mark World No Tobacco Day 31 May 2018

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Another World No Tobacco Day is here.

Every year on 31 May the Cayman Islands joins countries around the globe to shine a spotlight on health and other risks associated with tobacco use.

This year’s observance focuses on tobacco as a leading cause of heart and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) —connections of which many are unaware.

Cardiovascular diseases kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure. In Latin America and the Caribbean 31% of all deaths are attributable to heart disease.

What these numbers mean is that many of us may have lost a friend or family member who was a smoker or impacted by second hand smoke to heart disease.

It is further estimated that the number of deaths in the region due to CVD will increase by more than 60% by 2020, unless preventive measures are introduced and practiced.

To reduce the impact of such losses on society, regional and international health organisations are using this year’s observance to highlight actions that members of the public and governments can take to mitigate the effects of tobacco products and limit access to them.

As such, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) urges individuals to be aware that hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, may be caused by the use of tobacco. The number one risk factor for illness and premature death from cardiovascular disease, hypertension is also one of the most common non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean region.

Often unrecognised and untreated, it can cause serious health problems such as heart failure, stroke and kidney damage. As such CARPHA recommends regular checks to detect this disease which is often symptomless.

At the same time many of us in in the Caribbean, with hypertension or ‘pressure’ already know it. Those of us for whom this is true need to take this seriously and stay on our treatments and lifestyle plans as if our lives depended on them.

The availability of blood pressure machines, funded by Government, at the Government Administration Building and the Health Services Authority helps residents “stay in the know” about their blood pressure numbers.

The World Health Organisation also offers recommendations for how governments can support individuals who have taken the decision to be tobacco-free.

I am pleased to say that the Cayman Islands has already made significant progress in this regard. The implementation of a ban on smoking in public places has allowed us to protect people from the effects of second hand smoke. The corresponding adoption of a Tobacco Registry allows us to monitor tobacco use while higher import duty on tobacco products, we hope, will make them less affordable.

Our Public Health Department also regularly offers free classes on smoking cessation. A new round of these sessions was recently advertised in local media and is set to start this week.

From a policy perspective the Ministry of Health is fully committed to exploring further options for reducing the risks that tobacco poses to Caymanians and residents of all ages.

As part of this commitment we have begun discussions to become fully ratified with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, even though we are already a signatory through the United Kingdom. This process will require us to take very specific steps including addressing tobacco advertising, promotion, packaging and sponsorship.

We promise to keep the public updated on our progress towards this goal. It is only by us all working together in this cause that we can help to ensure a healthier future for ourselves and our children.

Let’s make every day a World No Tobacco Day.

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