Hagåtña, Guam – Guam has received special recognition for its accomplishments in tobacco control. Every year, on May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). Earlier this week, a certificate and special coin were presented to the Guam Non-Communicable Disease Consortium Tobacco Control Action Team (NCD TCAT) of the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS).
The NCD TCAT was established in 2009 to address the burden of tobacco and nicotine use on the island. From 2011 to 2018, smoking among adults has declined from 35.8% to 21.9%. From 2011 to 2017, smoking among high school students also declined from 21.9% to 13.2%. Changes in policy, such as the Natasha Protection Act of 2005, increasing taxes on tobacco products, raising the minimum legal age of access to all tobacco products and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke contributed to the significant decline. Policy changes were paired with education and advocacy by the NCD TCAT. The group’s new 5-year goal is to further reduce the prevalence by 20%, by 2023.
“When I was a senator, I authored the Natasha Protection Act of 2005, which banned smoking in public establishments. I want to dedicate this award to Natasha Perez, the namesake of this legislation. This recognition from the World Health Organization is a testament to hard work and advocacy by our local champions for a smoke-free Guam. Through the efforts of our Tobacco Control Action Team, more lawmakers have recognized the need to change tax and healthcare policies to prevent tobacco use. As a nurse, I continue to prioritize the health and well-being of our people,” said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.
The WNTD awards recognize individuals or organizations in each of the six WHO Regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, European, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific) for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
“Guam has some of the highest rates of tobacco and electronic cigarette use in the nation, and that is alarming. Our team is committed to reducing these numbers, and we have many programs at DPHSS and Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. Many residents have seen success and as a result, are now living healthier lives. We want to see more of this among our people,” said Linda Unpingco-DeNorcey, Director of DPHSS.
The NCD TCAT has seen recent legislation passage in taxation with Public Law 34-116, increasing the tax from $3 per pack to $4 per pack; Public Law 34-55, requiring a Stamp Tax on all cigarettes; Law 34-01, clarifying the definition of electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product and raising the minimum legal age of access to all tobacco products from 18 to 21 years; and Public Law 33-121, which prohibits smoking in bars and makes it a primary offense to smoke in vehicles when minors and pregnant women are present.
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