The British American Tobacco Company celebrated 40 years of its presence in Samoa recently and while there may have been debatable economic benefits to the country it is also important to highlight the negative health aspects of tobacco smoking in Samoa, which probably cancels the economic benefits.
Samoa has experienced exceptional modernization and globalization the past several decades and with it the evolution and increase of non-communicable diseases particularly strokes, heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. Underpinning and sustaining this increase is tobacco smoking.
The W.H.O. 2013 population based Steps Survey which looked at data from 9,223 participants between the ages of 24 – 64 years noted that 36% of men smoked and 15% of women smoked which are high if compared to the regional average rates.
During the same period increases in diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and cancers were also noted.
N.C.Ds are now the leading causes of illness and death in Samoa and its negative economic impact on the country’s finances are massive and the problem shows no signs of slowing down.
What can we do about it?
The Ministry of Health probably has its own programmes but this is my take: at the community level the key in addressing these serious health threats are: stop smoking, stop sugary drinks, regular fasting and exercise.
Lest we forget but it is also important to remember that 100 years ago this month 25% of the Samoan population got wiped out from the Influenza epidemic of 1918.
How it came to these shores and who is responsible we will leave it for the historians but suffice to say that this is a timely reminder that while we have a huge N.C.D. problem to deal with we also have infectious diseases that have not been completely eradicated.
At least with infectious diseases we have the vaccine immunizations of our children to prevent them but with lung cancer, stroke, heart disease etc. our only hope is for the population to stop smoking.
God Bless Samoa.