Connect to quit is the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day which is celebrated on 31 May. It is on this day that governments, non-governmental organizations and communities join in raising awareness about the harmful tobacco use and the benefits of quitting for individuals, communities, government and country.

Exercising the theme for 2021 will have numerous immediate and long-term health benefits for smokers, as well as reducing the risk of many second-hand smoke-related diseases for those around them. For example, within a few weeks of quitting smoking, circulation improves and lung function increases. Within 10 years, the death rate from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker.

It is reported that 26.3% of adults aged 15 and older in the West Pacific region are currently tobacco users. Surveys in the Pacific Islands and Territories (PICTs) show that about half of the adult population between the ages of 25-64 are currently smokers in countries such as Kiribati, Tokelau, Nauru and Wales and Futuna and the average years of smoking is about 20 years for countries like American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Community (SPCA) Public Health Division (PHD), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and development partners, provides technical support to member states to positively influence policy dialogue to respond to Pacific Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) crisis and supported national efforts for tobacco control, including ‘Commit to quitting’.

Dr Si Thu Win Tin, team leader for NCD prevention and control program at PHD said: “SPCA is committed to protecting Pacific communities from the harmful effects of tobacco by strengthening policies and regulatory mechanisms and empowering them through evidence-based information and interventions to stop smoking and use tobacco products ”.

The Pacific Monitoring Alliance for NCD Action (MANA) monitors the progress of the Pacific NCD Roadmap, including recommendations for tobacco control and reports that some form of smoking cessation support is available in 18 PICTs.

Most PICTs now have health promotion, policies and regulations to ensure that the public is well informed about the impact of tobacco on health, regulations to control tobacco advertising and promotion, tobacco sales and licensing, and tax measures to control the price of tobacco products. . Despite some achievements, there is a need to further strengthen tobacco control efforts in PICTs to achieve Tobacco-Free Pacific targets 2025 and global NCD targets.

To scale up NCD actions, SPC continues to work with development partners and is developing the Pacific Legislative Framework to help member states develop legislation to control NCD risk factors, including tobacco use.