Don't let tobacco take your breath away

AWARENESS CAMPAIGN: Dr. Annette David, left, and Cathy Rivera Castro have been on a campaign to bring awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco and its related products. At the top of their list are new products on the market such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

Guam and the rest of the nation joined the World Health Organization and its global partners in World No Tobacco Day.

This year's focus is on tobacco and lung health. The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.

Guam has the highest smoking rate for both adults and youth, about one in four adults and two in 10 high school students are current smokers. Smoking prevalence is about 30 percent higher on Guam than in the U.S. and remains the leading cause of preventable death on island.

The 2008-2012 Guam Cancer Facts and Figures indicates that lung cancer is second in overall incidents and first in lung and bronchus mortality. Lung cancer accounted for 15 percent of new cancer cases on Guam and was responsible for nearly one-third of all cancer deaths. Tobacco use is a major contributor to nine of the top 10 causes of death and kills one person a day due to a tobacco-related disease.

Statistics indicate that smoking is highest among the poor, less educated and most vulnerable in our community, especially among the youth. This represents a great disparity within our population. The burden of their health care, along with their economic situation, is encumbered by our government.

A call to action

We would like to use this campaign as a call to action to our policymakers, as well as our entire community, to join us in advocating for more stringent tobacco-control policies. Evidence has shown that each time a tobacco-control policy has been enacted, Guam's tobacco usage rates have decreased. This must be a priority for each one of us. Too many families have been torn apart by tobacco, too many promising lives and futures cut short by this deadly product. Nothing positive comes from tobacco use.

Join us today and every day in ensuring that our future is healthy and tobacco-free so together we can save lives!

Cathy Castro and Peter J. Cruz are co-leaders of the Tobacco Control Action Team, Non-Communicable Disease Consortium.

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