Youth survey prompts calls for more anti-tobacco ads

Calls were made yesterday for more anti-tobacco messages after the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) found that only 42.1% of local students, aged 13 to 15, had seen them within a one-month period.

At a dissemination meeting for the GYTS 2015 report, which was held at the Marriott Hotel yesterday, it was revealed that the survey, conducted among 1,000 students of public schools in Guyana, found that 44.6% of the girls and 39.4% of the boys had noticed anti-tobacco messages in the media in the previous 30 days.

According to Minister within the Ministry of Public Heath Dr. Karen Cummings, interventions should be launched, including mass media campaigns that can educate and protect Guyanese from second-hand smoke and further promote norms that are effective in preventing the initiation and prevalence of smoking among youth. “I would also want to underscore the role of the media… and we are looking forward for the media helping us to “beef-up” health promotions and to having more tobacco messages out in the public,” Cummings added.

This call was echoed by Dr. Morris Edwards, PAHO/WHO Guyana Consultant for the GYTS 2015 report, who said the findings suggest that the media does not seem to have been offering support on a continuous basis in dissemination of anti-tobacco ads. He too asked that the media “ratchet-up” the promotion of more anti-tobacco ads in support of the ministry’s campaign against tobacco use.

Apart from the demand for more anti-tobacco ads, Edwards also mentioned that the survey, compared with previous ones, revealed that there was a general reduction in tobacco use over the years except for 2010. However, he noted, disappointedly, that the percentage of students who were able to purchase cigarettes from shops more than doubled in 2015 compared to 2004. As a result, he urged that the ministry implement some form of policy which would reduce the number.

The results of the survey, released last weekend, showed that 54.5% of current cigarette smoking students obtained cigarettes by buying them from a store, shop, street vendor or kiosk, while 48.9% of them reported that they were not stopped from buying cigarettes because of their age.

It also said tobacco use was reported by 14.8% of students, comprising 19% of the boys and 10.4% of the girls who were surveyed. It said too that 11.7% of students, including 16.1% of boys and 7.5% of girls were at the time “current smokers” of tobacco. It added that 8.6% of students, representing 13.3% of boys and 3.8% of girls, were current users of cigarettes, while 4.1% of students, comprising 4.6% of boys and 3% of girls were using smokeless tobacco. It was noted that 9% of students, comprising 9.3% of the boys and 8% of the girls, were current users of electronic cigarettes.

The GYTS, which is a component of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System, is a global standard for systematically monitoring youth tobacco use and tracking key tobacco indicators. The GYTS also assists countries in fulfilling their World Health Organization framework convention on Tobacco Control obligations. Guyana which acceded to the convention in September, 2005, recently passed anti-tobacco legislation as part of the requirements. One of the five components of the bill was the prevention of youth initiation to tobacco use.

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