|Senator Dr Victor Wheeler|
INDEPENDENT Senator Dr Victor Wheeler yesterday questioned whether the time has come to completely ban tobacco smoking in this country.
Wheeler described the smoking of cigarettes and pipes as a “devastating addiction” which is on par with cocaine and alcohol.
He said cigarette manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves. Wheeler made the comments as he delivered his contribution to the Tobacco Control Act during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate.
“There are many people who still don’t seem to realise how dangerous smoking is...smoking I consider it to be on par with cocaine and alcohol.
“Everything and anything that could be done to reduce and stop smoking should be done in my opinion.” Wheeler said he would happily support anything to reduce smoking. He said, according to statistics from the Dr Elizabeth Quamina Cancer Centre, lung cancer in Trinidad and Tobago is the “number one cancer” among men aged 25 to 59 years.
Lung cancer is the number four cancer behind prostate, breast and colon cancer.
“Smoking kills and kills slowly,” Wheeler said, adding that in the United States smoking is directly related to almost 500,000 deaths a year, which accounts for 20 per cent of all deaths.
“In fact, deaths due to cigarette smoking is more than deaths due to HIV, motor vehicular accidents, suicides, murders and even illegal drug abuse combined.”
Wheeler described tobacco as a “unique” product.
“Tobacco is the only legal product when used as it is intended kills half of all long-term users, and this is not true of any other product.”
Wheeler said all the adverse effects caused by smoking are “entirely preventable”.
“Maybe we should be having a conversation, is it time to ban smoking because we have seen what effect it causes on the general public and the tax payer who has to fork out a lot of money in dealing with the consequences of smoking.”
Wheeler said despite the devastating effect of cigarettes, West Indian Tobacco (WITCO) is the most valuable stock on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange.
“Tobacco companies have been crying foul because they claim that the packaging and what they have been asked to do in certain countries breaches fundamental rights and freedoms,” Wheeler said.
“In my opinion these companies which are crying foul now should really be ashamed of themselves.” WITCO shares are currently trading at a price of $120.02, Wheeler said. He called for the establishment of counselling centres to assist smokers overcome their addiction.
Wheeler said schools should also be targeted to stop youngsters from picking up the habit.