WHO: Fiji tackles ‘smoking’ head-on

Fiji Cancer Society CEO Belinda Chan (ffth from left) with other stakeholders at the Tobacco Cessation Hub launch at Albert Park in Suva. Picture: ELENA VUCUKULA

Fiji is the first country in the region to tackle cigarette smoking head-on with the establishment of tobacco cessation service hubs in all divisions, says World Health Organization (WHO) Pacific NCDs and health team leader Dr Tomo Kanda.

Speaking at the launch of the expanded tobacco cessation services in Suva yesterday, she said Fiji was taking a huge step towards controlling tobacco use.

“Tobacco kills and this is a fact. Around the world over 80 million people die every year due to direct tobacco use and second hand smoking,” Dr Kanda said.

“Three years ago there was no place in Fiji where tobacco users could go to ask for personalised support.

“The power of nicotine and addiction means that tobacco users often relapse after making attempts to quit.

“And without specialised support, many have struggled in the past to break the habit.

“But as of today, we have five cessation hubs across three divisions in the country — able to offer intensive tobacco counseling and treatment.

“This is the first country in the Pacific region and Fiji would show a good model of tobacco cessation to other Pacific countries.”

Dr Kanda said the expansion of tobacco cessation services would not have been possible without the efforts of the Fiji Cancer Society and Hope Clinic.

“The Fiji Cancer Society has been a key partner in tobacco control, raising awareness through community screening and social media campaigns.

“The Hope Clinic on the other hand agreed to be the home of the initial pilot project launch of tobacco cessation services in 2020.

“Tobacco cessation models and approaches were catered to the Fijian context and Hope Clinic started taking referrals from the Fiji Cancer Society and other partners in Suva so tobacco users were able to receive the support they needed.

“It is based on this experience that the cessation hubs have now being established and could cater for tobacco users in Labasa, Lautoka and Suva.

“WHO is proud to have supported this initiative with thanks to funding from the New Zealand government but this was truly initiated by Fijians and will save many lives.”

Fiji Cancer Society CEO Belinda Chan said every citizen had the right to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health.

“From the society’s perspective we will continue to advocate on tobacco control in Fiji and work in collaboration with our partners in ensuring a tobacco-free environment,” she said.

Hope Clinic physician Dr Alipate Vakamocea said they would continue working with stakeholders towards creating a smoke-free Fiji.

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