TOBACCO MONITORING SHOWS NEED FOR STRONGER TOBACCO CONTROL IN GUYANA.

Tobacco monitoring in Guyana dates back to more than 20 years, when its early tobacco control legislation included tobacco use surveillance and reporting provisions for second-hand smoke exposure. Reporting of second-hand smoke exposure has been required since Sanitation and Safety Acts No. 1 (1996) and No. 32 (1997), which both mandated quarterly reporting on second-hand smoke exposure in workplaces (mainly government ministries and industries such as bauxite and sugar production, and their associated offices)

In 2000, Guyana conducted its first round of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), which was the first nationally representative study on tobacco use among adolescents. Guyana is one of only a few countries in the Americas to have completed four (4) rounds of the GYTS (2000, 2004, 2010 and 2015).

In 2016, the WHO-STEPwise approach to noncommunicable disease risk factor surveillance (STEPS) was conducted for the first time in Guyana and included a component on Tobacco Control. The survey sought to generate data (in most cases baseline) on NCD risk factors and for the first time presented data on tobacco use among adults aged 18-69 years. A full report on the findings of this survey is expected to be available by September 2017.

Guyana continues to experience challenges in finding adequate resources for tobacco use monitoring. Most tobacco surveillance data are currently collected through surveys, which are costly and difficult to sustain. It is noted that from the GYTS that the prevalence of youth smokers are increasing. This translates to even higher smoking prevalence in adulthood. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that if a child does not initiate smoking before the age of 15 years, they will most likely never develop the habit throughout the course of their entire life.

This only serves to highlight the importance in implementing tobacco control regulations as quickly as possible. Although Guyana was amongst the first to ratify the WHO –Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to date, the revised legislation is still pending passage in the National Assembly. The findings of the national tobacco surveillance efforts in Guyana have implored policy-makers and other stakeholders to use the findings and advocate for stronger action in tobacco control measures such as ensuring the passage of the Tobacco Control Act.

However, it is recommended that the country ensure periodic implementation of surveys, under the Global Tobacco Surveillance System is conducted and that the data for key tobacco use indicators are included in the country’s national surveillance databases. To date, Tobacco remains the single legal leading cause of death worldwide accounting for more than 6 million deaths annually of which 600,000 are from second and third hand smoking. The lack of a comprehensive national cancer prevention and control plan in Guyana would suggest that policy makers seek alternative cost effective methods in reducing the burden that tobacco places on the health care sector. Moreover cancer is the fourth leading cause of premature mortality in Guyana with lung cancer sitting at fourth position among the leading types of cancers.

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