Ramsammy says tobacco use still “alarmingly high”

In the fight against Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), tobacco use, which is one of the risk factors, is still at an alarmingly high level, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy told the 21st Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Human   and Social Development (COHSOD) which opened here on Friday morning.

He noted  that the region’s progress towards meeting its obligations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was “slow at best,” according to a press release from the CARICOM Secretariat at Turkeyen.  CARICOM member states had agreed to the implementation of the FCTC, especially as it relates to Article 13 which seeks to control tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.  However, to date, at least three CARICOM member states have not ratified the FCTC.

Leslie Ramsammy

Dr Ramsammy, who made an impassioned call for regional standards in tobacco control, stated that the proposals regarding labeling and pictorial messages on tobacco which had been supported by health ministers “have remained on the shelf of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and are not moving.”

“If we cannot move to adequately warn the public about a substance that is a killer and acknowledged even by manufacturers that it is a killer, then the battle seems lost…” Minister Ramsammy declared, according to the release.

The meeting opened with a consensus that notwithstanding the economic burdens on member states, greater investment in health was an imperative, especially in the fight against NCDS.

The two-day COHSOD meeting was hosted by Guyana under the theme: “Promoting Equity in Human Development through Public Health”.

In delivering the feature address, Dr Ramsammy, who is also Chair of COHSOD, noted that while the region had made significant strides in health development, it had lagged in critical areas.

Lolita Applewhaite

And in her address, CARICOM acting Secretary-General, Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite acknowledged that greater investment in health was an imperative. However, she pointed to critical milestones that have been achieved by the Community over the past 10 years; chief of which were the  provisions of the Nassau Declaration,  which underscored that the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region; the establishment of PANCAP to mitigate the spread of HIV and AIDS; and the priorities of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health.

She noted also that more recently there have been in-roads in NCDS under the Port-of-Spain Declaration, Uniting to Stop Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and the creation of a centre of excellence in public health – the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett underscored the critical importance of health to the fostering of other areas and asserted that it was a fundamental human right that was indispensable for the exercise of other human rights and therefore should always be on the front burner of the budget of member states

Citing Guyana as an example, the minister stated that 8.5 per cent of the deaths here  were linked to diabetes, and noted that the problem of NCDs was a threat to the success of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

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