3020613
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, left, gives a Parliament police officer a bounce as he was on his way to yesterday’s Senate sitting.

You’ll soon be able to see your future on your next cigarette package – and it won’t be pretty.

By next month, cigarette packages will come complete with graphic, uncensored images of oral cancer, amputations and voice box apparatus to remind smokers what will happen if they don’t stop smoking.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, indicated this in the Senate yesterday, piloting a motion to implement regulations approved in 2019 for control of tobacco products. The move is aimed at creating awareness about the dangers of smoking and particularly targets children and youths to reduce the use of such products.

It’s all part of the Government’s policy to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Deyalsingh revealed he smoked while in primary school “…Until my mother ketch me and gave me the cut tail of my life – then I stopped.”

He said his wife wouldn’t have been pleased to hear him speak about it and he might “have had to sleep outside last night.”

Deyalsingh said there are 4,000 harmful ingredients in cigarettes – toxins and carcinogens – and 16 graphic uncensored images of the effects of smoking on the body will be placed on packages.

He listed some of the harmful ingredients from arsenic to flea killer, a rocket fuel substance, lead, DDT – modern synthetic insecticides.

Deyalsingh said lung cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in TT after prostate cancer, breast and colorectal cancers.

It cost the State health system $500,000 to treat a single lung cancer case.

He noted 641 deaths from lung cancer over 2013-2017 and about 275 – occurred in the 50 to 64 age group.

“People in the prime of their lives.”

He said smoking is a high risk for women especially when pregnant, “And there’s a problem in TT where women still smoke while pregnant,” he said.

Once the motion is passed in both Houses of Parliament he expected the information would go to Witco within two weeks. He projected the images on cigarette packages should be rolled out later this month and March.

Witco which agreed to the action will repackage its merchandise.

When it came to breast cancer the Minister said he was shocked to learn that among the 1, 827 cases of breast cancer in this country between 2013-2017, some 34 cases were found among men.

Calls to ban smoking

Meanwhile, Independent Senator Paul Richards said smoking should be banned outright and “vaping” – using electronic vapour “cigarettes” – is another area that needs tackling.

Richards said while it was a “no brainer” to support the motion which nobody could object to, he noted that if smokers saw the images on the package, it meant they’d have the cigarettes in hand – and the battle would be lost. He said the regulations are coming from behind the curve to deal with the effects of smoking.

“But why can’t we be pioneering and ban smoking outright? Ban it,” he said noting the incontrovertible evidence of its deadly effects.

“Why can’t we say (to tobacco companies): Phillip Morris – you’re not allowed in TT. Witco – you have 10 years to get out?”

Richards said tobacco companies were evil entities that profited from death, illness and mayhem caused by smoking and they only cared about their income.

Vaping a big problem

UNC senator Wade Mark said vaping was a gateway to full-fledged smoking. He said nobody could be against the motion as there’s undoubtedly a smoking epidemic in TT

But Mark questioned the length of time it took to get the regulations in place and the leadership to have had it done. He noted the number of deaths caused by smoking.

He questioned what facilities are available for people who want to stop smoking.