Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare today warned the nation of the financially costly and health risks of tobacco.
The warning was contained in his keynote address at the 2017 World No Tobacco Day celebration in Honiara today. The event held at the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation Headquarters was broadcasted live by the national broadcaster SIBC.
The theme for this year is “Tobacco: A Threat to Development.”
The Prime Minister said the theme is a very important call of warning to all Solomon Islanders in light of Solomon Islands status as a developing country with a low middle income status.
He said recent data from the National Referral Hospital shows that cardiovascular diseases – heart attack and stroke- are now the number one killers in the country and smoking has always been a predisposing factor to these diseases.
Prime Minister Sogavare said smoking is also a major risk factor to the development of cancer which is the number one cause of death for women in Solomon Islands.
He said the rate of smoking in Solomon Islands is alarming with more than 31 percent of the national population hooked into this habit.
“Our youth rates are one of the highest youth smoking rates in the globe with 40 percent of our youth between the ages of 13-15 smoking. Not only that but the non–smoking population are also very much affected with 80 percent of our youth exposed to second hand smoke.
“Our hospitals around the country now are filled with people suffering from tobacco-related diseases. Our children, family and friends are dying.”
“This is not the development that we want for our people, and I say that enough is enough. No longer will we entertain the notion that anything to do with tobacco can be good for us, our communities, villages, towns and country as whole.”
Going forward, the Prime Minister said the Government is committed to tackling this problem.
“Under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, we agreed to enact local laws safeguard the health of our nation – protecting our population from all walks of life from the threats of tobacco.”
“To date, we delivered on this promise with the Tobacco Control Act 2010 and the Tobacco Control Regulations of 2013 and 2015 respectively.”
He said the enforcement of these laws is paramount and on that note congratulated the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the collaborative work they are doing with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Prime Minister Sogavare said public awareness of these laws and the health effects of tobacco use must continue and enforcement must be strengthened.
He said in view of the theme of today’s World No Tobacco Day launch, the Government is working to prioritise and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of its responses to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development because tobacco control supports health and development.
“If we do this, we are sure to benefit from successfully controlling the tobacco epidemic, above all by protecting our citizens from the harms of tobacco use and reducing its economic toll on the national economy.
“In terms of the Sustainable Development Agenda, and its 17 global goals, the aim is to ensure that no one is left behind. Accordingly, tobacco control has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda.
“In fact, tobacco control is seen as one of the most effective means to help achieve SDG target 3.4 which is to reduce by one third premature deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary diseases.”
He added that strengthening the implementation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco in all countries is an additional target to be met by governments developing national sustainable development responses and Solomon Islands is fully committed to this.
Prime Minister Sogavare said in addition to saving lives and reducing health inequalities, comprehensive tobacco control contains the adverse environmental impact of tobacco growing, manufacturing, trade and consumption.
“Tobacco control can break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change.
“Increasing taxes on tobacco products can also be used to finance universal health coverage and other development programs of the government.”
The Prime Minister encouraged all individuals in the country to contribute to making Solomon Islands a sustainable tobacco-free nation.
“It is not only governments who can step up tobacco control efforts; people can contribute on an individual level to making a sustainable, tobacco-free world.”
“People can commit to never take up tobacco products. And those who do use tobacco can quit the habit or seek help in doing so, which will in turn protect their health as well as people exposed to second-hand smoke, including children, other family members and friends.”
He said money not spent on tobacco can be, in turn, be used for other essential uses, including the purchase of healthy food, health-care and education.
The World No Tobacco Day Programme was attended by the Supervising Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon Samson Maneka, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Dr Tenneth Dalipanda, WHO Representative in Solomon Islands, Dr Sevil Huseynova, Director National NCD Programme, Dr Geoffrey Kenilorea and Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr John Muria Jr.