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Students Urged to Steer Clear of Tobacco

Students are being urged to resist tobacco amid the pervasive use of vapes or e-cigarettes among youth.

State Minister in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Hon. Marsha Smith, said tobacco usage has the potential to take as many lives as the COVID-19 pandemic did.

She likened the COVID-19 pandemic to tobacco on steroids, as she implored students to find other ways to enjoy recreational time without using tobacco products.

“Every time you see a tobacco product, whether it is the traditional tobacco product or e-cigarettes, I want you to remember what COVID did to the world and say to yourself ‘if COVID did so much to the world and destroyed so many lives and took away so many important people from our lives, it’s the same thing that tobacco is doing right now,” Ms. Smith said.

She was addressing the opening ceremony of World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Youth Forum and Exhibition at Pembroke Hall Primary School in Kingston on Friday (May 31).

It was held under the theme ‘Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference: Tobacco Free Future’.

In her remarks, Acting Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Audrey Morris, said it is critical for youths to be empowered, so that they can demand that the tobacco industry seizes from targeting them with harmful products.

Dr. Morris shared that vaping is surging among young people globally, noting that the 2017 World Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that 11.7 per cent of Jamaican students between the ages of 13 and 15 years were using e-cigarettes.

“That was 2017, so by now we think it is more. Use of these devices can seem like fun or seem harmless, but it is risky for your health. It can affect your memory, concentration, learning, self-control, and your mood, so it makes it harder to focus on school and other activities,” she said.

Dr. Morris encouraged students to protect their bodies and their futures by saying no to tobacco.

For her part, Chief Technical Director in the Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Inspectorate Policy Division of the Ministry of National Security, Shauna Trowers, said the government is committed to the safety and security of youths, a critical component of which is shielding them from the harmful influences of tobacco.

She shared that students have been increasingly targeted through exploitative marketing tactics, aiming to hook a new generation on harmful products.

“The government has already taken steps to combat this issue and we have created a ban on tobacco advertising on domestic television and radio and there are restrictions on outdoor advertising and brand marketing,” she said.

Ms. Trowers urged students to steer clear of tobacco and choose a healthy and vibrant future.

Students from 17 primary and secondary schools across Jamaica participated in the youth forum and exhibition.

The Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, Heart Foundation of Jamaica, National Council on Drug Abuse and Jamaica Cancer Society were among the exhibitors.