a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Caribbean Cardiac Society - Statement on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, July 23rd 2010

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Caribbean Cardiac Society

MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA W.I. July 23, 2010. Cardiovascular specialists from throughout the Caribbean gathered at the Ritz-Carlton, Montego Bay, from July 21 - 24 for the 25th Annual Caribbean Cardiology Conference. Subsequent to a presentation entitled “Cessation of Smoking” by Dr. Knox Hagley, Chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, the Caribbean Cardiac Society (CCS) reaffirmed its commitment to safeguarding public health from the harmful effects of smoking. The CCS issued an appeal for regional governments to enact comprehensive tobacco control legislation to safeguard the health and development of CARICOM nationals. Such legislation would be consistent with the regional commitment made under the world’s first public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which was agreed upon in 2005.

This framework was spearheaded by the World Health Organization in direct response to the tobacco epidemic. Tobacco use kills over five million people worldwide each year and significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. The CCS commends regional Governments that have signed and ratified the FCTC and applauds Trinidad and Tobago for being the first Caribbean state to enact tobacco control legislation.

As early as 2007, during the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, Health Ministers expressed concern at the alarming increase in the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disorders; and highlighted the fact that tobacco use, specifically cigarette smoking, was the common risk factor in these diseases.

These concerns were reflected in the historic Port of Spain Declaration made by regional leaders at that time Therein leaders reaffirmed the region’s “commitment to pursue immediately a legislative agenda for passage of the legal provisions related to the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; urge its immediate ratification in all States which have not already done so and support the immediate enactment of legislation to limit or eliminate smoking in public places, ban the sale, advertising and promotion of smoking in public places, ban the sale, advertising and promotion of tobacco products to children, insist on effective warning labels and introduce such fiscal measures as will reduce accessibility of tobacco".

The CCS is concerned that since the Port of Spain Declaration several deadlines for Caribbean states’ implementation of FCTC measures have not been met. While efforts have been made to honour the commitments made in the FCTC, those efforts have not risen to meet the extent of the public health challenge posed by tobacco use. The rate of morbidity and mortality of diseases associated with tobacco usage has continued to increase and the pace of action from regional government’s has been insufficient to adequately address this growing problem.

The CCS urges Caribbean governments to address the FCTC commitments with respect to tobacco usage with a new urgency and encourages other civil society organizations throughout the region to urge their governments to take the requisite action without delay.