A series of activities were launched yesterday to mark World No Tobacco Day 2023. Several ministers and personalities were present. The World Health Organization (WHO) representative, Dr Anne Marie Ancia, and other eminent personalities were also present.
The winners of the ‘Fresque Murale’ intercollege competition, organised by the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, were also rewarded on the occasion.
The theme retained for this year is “We need food, not tobacco”.
Addressing the students, Vice-Prime Minister Dookun-Luchoomun underlined that education plays a pivotal role in sensitising the youth on the devastating effects that tobacco use can have on the health of the communities. The theme, she said, is most appropriate as it is a powerful reminder of saying no to tobacco use and it also awakens in the youth, the resilience and capacity to not give in to peer pressure.
For his part, Minister Jagutpal stated that according to the National Non-Communicable Diseases Survey carried out in 2021, around 18% of the Mauritian population are consuming tobacco. It is estimated that 1,000 deaths occur annually in Mauritius due to tobacco use, he informed, adding that the incidence of smoking is highest in the younger age groups. As per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey carried out in 2016, he indicated, 19 % of the school population aged between 13 to 15 years consumed tobacco.
Tobacco, he stressed, is known to contain around 4,000 chemical substances, out of which 300 are toxic and cause a wide range of diseases such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, and chronic pulmonary diseases like bronchitis. It also affects the sexual reproductive health of both male and female smokers, indicated the Minister.
A few other initiatives are being taken such as the anti-tobacco lobbying comprising pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, bans on advertisement, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products and introduction of cost-free tobacco cessation clinics.
Government, Minister Jagutpal emphasised, is taking bold measures to curb down the incidence of smoking in the country. As from today, he informed that no new tobacco-vending licenses will be issued to retailers located within a perimeter of 200 metres of educational institutions, sports and leisure facilities, as per international standards.
In addition, plain packaging for cigarettes are being introduced as from today, in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The import of e-cigarettes into the country is also being banned, he added.
As for Dr Anne Marie Ancia, she underlined that the Day is an occasion to reflect on the need for important and responsible decision making as regards tobacco consumption. It is an attempt to contribute in the elimination and reduction of tobacco consumption through awareness and sensitisation campaigns, she said.
She also spoke of the consequences of passive smoking on the people around a smoker adding that the number of death caused by passive smoking has considerably increased. It is therefore an important choice that the youth has to make as regards tobacco consumption which can have serious implications on their health and that of their family and surroundings, stated Dr Ancia.