TRINITY PROFESSORS PRESENT AT 'WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY' OPEN FORUMArticle by Gloria Williams, Journalist St. Vincent and the Grenadines
World No Tobacco Day is commemorated in countries all over the world on May 31st each year. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the SVG Medical Association and the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, held an event in commemoration of that day. The activity took the form of a panel discussion and then an open forum on tobacco smoking and other products. This was the first collaborative effort of its kind and it acted as a sensitization with its main aim being to deliver information to the general public on the effects, consequences and responsibility of smoking, and to stimulate discussion among the audience.
A slate of five professional both in and outside the medical field presented on a number of issues concerning the smoking of tobacco. Three professors from Trinity School of Medicine were members of the impressive panel. They were: Dr. Conrad Nedd, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Preceptor; Dr. Jamil Ibrahim, Assistant Professor in Clinical Medicine; and Dr. Amrie Morris-Patterson, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Course Director, Behavioural Sciences. They were joined by Dr. Joselle Miller, Health Psychologist with the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital; and Mikhail Charles, Barrister -at-Law, and an Associate at the Law firm of the Honorable René Baptiste, CMG.
A wide berth of issues was looked at. Included in these, were presentations by Counsel Mikhail Charles on “Smoking: Is there a Legal Right”; and by Dr. Joselle Miller on, “Psychological Strategies to Quit Smoking”.
Dr. Conrad Nedd dealt with the ‘Clinical Signs and Pathology of Smoking’. In what he called a “not heavily medical presentation”, Dr. Nedd sought to give the definition and historical perspective of tobacco. He began by saying, “Tobacco smoke is not a poison. It is over 7000 poisons!” That really grabbed the audience’s attention. He further went on to outline the clinical signs and effects of smoking.
Dr. Jamil Ibrahim looked at “Secondhand Smoke Exposure: What it Means to You”. He began by repeating the introductory remarks from the report made by 2006 American Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, “the debate is over. The science is clear: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults.” Dr. Ibrahim showed the definition, composition and exposure sources of secondhand smoke. He went on to use effectively presented statistics to make his point. He showed that 38.3% of children between the ages of 13-15 years were exposed to secondhand smoke at home. With secondhand smoke being the most universal trigger of asthma in children, the statistics in St. Vincent and the Grenadines reflected this same trend. His message was clear: there is no risk-free level exposure. He clamored for legislation to be introduced to declare non-smoking areas in public places.
Dr. Amrie Morris Patterson presented on “Smoking and Mental Health”. This turned out to be a very interesting presentation. She was able to take the audience, in a very simple manner, through the workings of the brain of the smoker, and his mental state as he smokes. She highlighted the role of nicotine and then expounded on addiction, signs of dependency, and withdrawal; and showed why many smokers experience difficulty in quitting.
During the Open Forum which followed, a number of issues were expanded on. Members of the audience posed questions on secondhand smoke, whether the smoker had rights, what were his responsibilities, and what could be his moral persuasions.
“The World Health Organization says that smoking is a privilege. It is not a right.” That was the adamant response made by Dr. St. Clair Thomas; Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, to questions posed about smokers’ rights. There was also interested discussion on issues like the chewing of tobacco and its effects as compared to smoking it. Designation of non-smoking areas and ultimate bans on smoking formed a great part of the conversation.
When asked about the omission of not concentrating on presentations surrounding this year’s theme of “Raise taxes on Tobacco”, Dr. Rosmond Adams, Focal Point for Tobacco Control in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, explained that discussions focused on taxes for tobacco would have been counterproductive at that point, seeing that the general public needed to be sensitized to the dangers of tobacco use before they could understand the significance of raised taxes on it.
As a follow up to the Open Forum, on Sunday, 1st June, the National Broadcasting Corporation Radio station, on its weekly “Views on Issues” talk program, hosted a panel that dealt with issues of tobacco consumption and also introduced the theme of the raising of taxes on tobacco. Dr. Richard Nedd formed part of this radio panel.
The SVG Medical Association has plans in place to continue the crusade against tobacco smoking and raising taxes in an effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate its use.