By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
Over six million people die annually from illnesses caused by tobacco products, and this week the National Drug Abuse Control Council is observing World No Tobacco Day to raise public awareness.
The NDACC carried out simultaneous educational fairs at all its district offices, including Belmopan and San Pedro, to engage students and the community about the dangers that tobacco poses to its users and those in their surroundings.
Esner Vellos, director of the NDACC, explained that even though the celebration date should be May 31, the council wanted students to take part in the activity. “They can not only come and see what we do in terms of tobacco programs, but also the general work of the national drug council, so they will know what are the other services we provide”, he said.
Vellos added that the NDACC has, since 2008, dedicated the entire month of May to anti-tobacco outreach activities country wide. “What we do is that we present information to people, we let them know facts like Tobacco products have over 4000 Carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds in it, and let them decide”, he explained.
He also said that Belize is in the process of drafting its National Tobacco Policy, which will take into account the global call to raise taxes on tobacco products.
According to the World Health Organization 600,000 people die annual from second hand smoke. Under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the organization is recommending that countries implement tax and price policies on tobacco products as a way to reduce tobacco consumption.
The organization says that its research concludes higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to smoke.
“A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about four percent in high-income countries and by up to eight percent in most low- and middle-income countries,” says official WHO statistics.