The Ministry of Health and Social Development in the Virgin Islands is observing World Tobacco Day today, May 31, by joining the global fight to “Protect Young People from the Tobacco Industry.” The day serves as a platform for governments worldwide to shield youth from the predatory marketing tactics employed by the tobacco industry.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Georges, warned that e-cigarettes, vapes, and electronic nicotine delivery systems pose significant health risks to young people. “These products contain addictive nicotine and an array of toxic chemicals similar to those found in cigarettes,” he said. Dr. Georges emphasized that tobacco products significantly increase the risk of various cancers, chronic lung diseases, vascular disease, diabetes, and poor oral health. He also noted that long-term use of e-cigarettes and other smoking alternatives has been linked to brain and heart disorders.

“The chemicals contained in these products are designed to cause addiction in younger users and are linked to numerous health problems,” Dr. Georges added.

The Ministry also reminded residents that smoking in public places is unlawful according to the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006. The regulations stipulate a fine of 50 dollars for anyone smoking tobacco or holding lighted tobacco within thirty feet of entrances, exits, or open windows of offices, public areas, elevators, stairways, and restrooms within buildings. This stipulation also applies to health institutions, educational institutions, sports facilities, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, rented event facilities, premises where children are cared for, public beaches, and any other facilities.

Dr. Georges encouraged the community to obey the law, refrain from smoking in public places, and advised youth not to be drawn into the trends or fads of e-cigarettes and vapes.