Tobacco causes a thousand deaths annually in Mauritius though the prevalence of smoking in the Indian Ocean island nation has dropped from 21% in 2009 to 19%, Mauritian Health Minister Anwar Husnoo said.
Speaking at the launch of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey report, Mr Husnoo said tobacco use was responsible for more than 7 million deaths every year around the world, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 8 million per year in the next 12 years, “unless strong and drastic actions are taken.”
“In Mauritius, it is estimated that 1,000 deaths occur annually due to tobacco use. However, the prevalence of smoking is highest in the younger age-groups, with over 44.7% of men aged between 18 to 24 years reporting smoking”, he said.
According to official statistics, the importation of cigarettes decreased from 1,306,406,000 sticks in 2009 to 857,960,000 sticks in 2016.
The survey found 19% of the school population of the island aged 13 to 15 years currently use tobacco, among whom 13.7% smoke cigarettes, while the remaining 5.3% use other forms of tobacco. Among cigarette consumers, 6.5% smoke six or more sticks daily.
“It is alarming to note that among those who have ever smoked a cigarette, 30.3% initiated smoking before they were 12 years old. As far as passive smoking is concerned, it was found that 29.5% of surveyed students were exposed to smoke in their homes and 46.1% were exposed to secondhand smoke in enclosed public places”, the minister noted.
Husnoo: “We are doing all that is possible to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related mortality in the population of Mauritius, but in this colossal task ahead, we need the collaboration and support of other stakeholders, including the youth, in view of paving the way for a more concerted, comprehensive and sustained approach towards the tobacco problem.”