A recent rapid assessment conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) has revealed widespread use and access to tobacco vaping devices among youth in Jamaica.
Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, pointed to worrying trends during the NCDA’s World No Tobacco Day Youth Forum, held Tuesday at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.
“Only this month, we received further insight into e-cigarette use among young people, courtesy of a Rapid Situational Assessment, conducted by the NCDA,” noted Dr Tufton.
“The findings reveal a troubling ease of access to e-cigarettes for youngsters – with adults as their enablers. It also hints at the dangers of the so-called ‘fun’ flavours of e-cigarettes, which are often marketed as safe alternatives to smoking. But this is not true; e-cigarettes are not safe,” the Minister added.
At the same time, Executive Director of the NCDA, Michael Tucker, noted that the increasing popularity of vaping devices among students, coupled with the low-risk perception of youth calls for intensified actions to tackle the tobacco industry.
“Our youth are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine contained in tobacco, given its highly addictive nature and the fact that it can disrupt their brain development,” Tucker highlighted.
“More concerning is the fact that 15 per cent of our adolescents between ages 13-15 have reported use of e-cigarettes, and of those who have used tobacco, 80 per cent have used it before the age of 14 years. And we want you to note that this is not confined to a particular parish or socio-economic group – it is occurring across the length and breadth of Jamaica,” Tucker said.
At present, a Joint Select Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health and Wellness, is reviewing the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act, 2020, which aims to safeguard Jamaicans, including youth and children, from the harmful effects of tobacco use.
On Tuesday, Advisor on Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at the Pan-American Health Organisation Dr Michelle Harris, who also delivered remarks at the forum, emphasised that Jamaica is moving in the right direction to protect citizens from the ill-effects of tobacco.
“We at the PAHO/WHO Country Office in Jamaica commend the Government of Jamaica for the work underway for the passage of the proposed Tobacco Control legislation. The legislation presents our best opportunity to reduce the harmful impact of tobacco and tobacco-related products on our children, young people, the society and the environment”, she noted.
A global observance, World No Tobacco Day is recognised annually on May 31 to increase awareness and action towards the elimination of tobacco use, given its harmful effects on human health and development. Jamaica, under the theme “Tobacco: Threat to the Environment – No Butts About It”, focused on tobacco and the physical environment; tobacco and human health; and tobacco’s impact on psychosocial health.
The Youth Forum, dubbed, “Tobacco Exposed: No Butts About It” formed part of activities being undertaken for the 2022 focus.