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The dangers of tobacco use

Ricky Brathwaite, PhD is chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council

The Bermuda Health Council has a strong reaction to any measures that can have the effect of negating the prevention work and reversing negative social attitudes towards tobacco use.

As an organisation, we meet regularly with health-system stakeholders to understand the issues they face as part of our remit to enhance and co-ordinate our health sector.

Adults in Bermuda smoke at an approximate 14 per cent clip, despite there being a plethora of well-studied and published research related to tobacco use.

Among other things, tobacco use leads to significantly higher health-system costs for everyone in a country.

Tobacco and alcohol use increase the risk of strokes and other heart damage — something our hospital has seen too much of recently.

Tobacco use reduces the productivity within the working population, making companies less profitable.

Individuals who use tobacco have significantly higher unemployment rates, leading to problems such as loss of opportunities for children and participation in important educational programmes.

Families where there is tobacco use suffer more financial stress and more mental health concerns.

Tobacco use exacerbates the concerns of child labour and unfair labour practices in tobacco-producing countries.

Tobacco use creates environmental harm and is associated with strong addictive disorders.

Tobacco use is associated with long-term disabilities and kills too many people in Bermuda prematurely, leading to all kinds of irreparable harm to communities and culture.

These are things we all know or should know.

With that said, countries have a clear and urgent opportunity to continue to pass strong, evidence-based policies to accelerate reductions in the prevalence of smoking and reap massive health benefits for their residents.

This includes Bermuda, and anything Bermuda can do to prevent tobacco use from increasing in our population.

High import/duty taxes are meant to first directly reduce smoking prevalence and the challenges it causes.

Second, such taxes are to raise funds so that there is greater agility for government-led public health and other critical interventions to improve population health.

These interventions must include the promotion of greater public health education and pathways for individuals effectively to stop smoking.

While 14 per cent tobacco-use prevalence in Bermuda may not be high compared to many other high-income countries, it is still a damaging statistic.

We must continue to implement and validate robust tobacco control and policies to reduce the disproportionate health and economic burden that tobacco use imposes — especially on the poor — during a time when income disparities are widening and the cost of living can feel overwhelming.

Anything counter to that could exacerbate the short and long-term health and economic harm for this island.

While some may argue that the sale of tobacco products and supplies creates jobs and opportunities for employment, there is adequate evidence to point out that such marginal economic gains are a far cry from balancing all the economic, health and emotional destruction that tobacco use causes.

In our view, this is not the time to potentially add any more items to our already lengthy list of societal concerns.

• Ricky Brathwaite, PhD is chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council

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Published May 11, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated May 11, 2023 at 7:56 am)

The dangers of tobacco use

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