By A. Langlay
Jamaica will mark the 34th annual World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on May 31, 2021; along with other members states of the World Health Organization (WHO) under the theme ‘Commit to Quit’. This will be, as outlined by the WHO website, in support of an estimated 100 million persons who are desirous of quitting tobacco use. The objective of this effort is to advocate for strong tobacco cessation policies, to promote increased access to cessation services, to increase awareness of the tobacco industry tactics and finally, to empower users to make successful attempts to quit the habit.
In Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, it is estimated that four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs); cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases have negatively impacted regional productivity, increased healthcare costs and has been linked to premature loss of life. Data published in 2012 by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, outlined that in Jamaica, tobacco use was responsible for 11% of all NCDs. In 2016, a Harvard study (Bloom D et al., 2016) estimated that the economic loss to the country by NCDs between 2015 and 2030 will be approximately US$17 billion.
Jamaica has made a major step forward by promulgating The Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations (2013), which was amended by the Public Health (Tobacco Control) (Amendment) Regulations (2014). Both pieces of legislation have allowed for the achievement of a number of outlined legislative aims including establishing smoke free places, mandating the placement of graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging and implementation of updated the penalty provisions. These legislative steps have aided the ability of the country to continue on the path of compliance with international obligations as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Article 14 of the WHO Framework is of particular interest to pharmacists, as this article encourages the implementation of effective measures to promote cessation of tobacco use and adequate treatment for tobacco dependence as well as, the collaboration to facilitate accessible and affordable treatment for tobacco dependence. This includes pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products and measures.
Already exist a cadre of healthcare professionals who are ably qualified in achieving these stated outcomes. Studies have shown that healthcare professionals have a proven and positive effect on the ability of persons to successfully navigate the quit process.
Pharmacists by virtue of their training, having diverse roles as professionals in the community and hospital settings are strategically positioned to assist clients and patients throughout the process of smoking cessation. The intervention as pharmacists will exponentially increase on local, regional and international policies which are geared at reducing tobacco usage. Pharmacists and pharmacies are accessible to the public island wide. Currently there are over 500 registered pharmacies located throughout the island. There by providing accessible services and being a frequent point of contact for the general public.
Many Jamaican pharmacists are influenced by the WHO/FIP (International Pharmaceutical Federation) Seven Star Pharmacist concept which outlines the varying roles of pharmacists as caregivers, decision-makers, communicators, managers, life-long-learners, teachers and leaders. In fulfilling these roles with respect to tobacco cessation, pharmacists are a group of healthcare professionals uniquely positioned to:
- increase patients’ success rates by counseling and educating patient/clients on the importance of smoking cessation
- provide information on the most appropriate pharmacological and nonpharmacological cessation aids and their proper use, contraindications and adverse side effects
- help with consistent screening of patients/clients engaged in the health care system, with the aim of gauging their willingness and readiness to quit
- collaboration with other healthcare providers in seeking the most appropriate assistance for patients/client who are ready or soon to be ready to quit smoking
Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to support patients/clients by being vocal and visible advocates, the sources of information and locations of supply required for cessation products and advice. Engaging pharmacists will undoubtedly serve to positively enhance the achievement of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. On this 34th annual World No Tobacco Day, pharmacists are encouraged to support the message of local organizers by introducing patients/clients to the slogan of “Vape or smoke: Commit to quit, your body will thank you for it”.