People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Now is the time for the global tobacco control community to encourage and support tobacco control in Dominican Republic.
By Dr. Samuel Ramos and Dr. Eduardo Bianco*
Dominican Republic is the only country in the Americas that did not sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It’s no surprise: during negotiations on the Convention (2000-2003), tobacco industry representatives were part of the country’s official delegation.
“Anti-tobacco” efforts to date have been limited to celebrating World No Tobacco Day with activities in schools, clubs, universities and the media that focused on the damage caused by tobacco to health, the economy and the environment.
In the last few years, the “Double T” project, a joint research effort between the University of Rochester and local researchers, promoted the creation of smoke-free homes in some rural communities.
But things seem to be finally changing for one of the region’s tobacco control laggards.
Groups joined forces
In May 2014, local institutions** decided they had to do more. They convened at the Auditorium of Health Sciences at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, and agreed to join forces to advance tobacco control.
One of the agreed steps was to recruit other institutions interested in tobacco control. After several meetings and much preparation, 29 institutions from throughout society – medical organisations, religious institutions, NGOs, private schools and a university – signed a memorandum of understanding on 20 May 2015. The Dominican Anti-tobacco Alliance (ADAT) was born.
ADAT’s goals are that Dominican Republic will: 1. Ratify the WHO FCTC and, 2. Become a Smoke-free country.
In an incredibly short time, the organisation has brought about major steps, including:
- The Regional Director of Education committed to making all public and private schools smoke-free.
- The Ministry of Health banned smoking in public and private health care institutions at the national level.
- The Dean of Health Sciences of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, a state university, banned smoking completely.
- The rector of the Pontifical Madre y Maestra University committed to making his institution smoke-free before 31 May 2016.
- ADAT developed regulations for the centre of the city of Santiago (DR’s capital), which include banning consumption of any tobacco product, including hookah.
- Put two major proposals on the public agenda:
o A call for the President to ratify the WHO FCTC (made by the lower house of the national legislature);
o A request that smoking be banned in all offices, buildings, environments and vehicles that are the property of Santiago City Hall.
The journey has begun. Now is the time for the international and regional tobacco control community to encourage and support tobacco control development in Dominican Republic.
* Dr. Samuel Ramos is with The Dominican Anti-tobacco Alliance and Dr. Eduardo Bianco is FCA’s Regional Director for the Americas.
** Dominican Foundation of Obesity and Cardiovascular Prevention, Dominican Society of Cardiology, Dominican Medical Association of Internists, Dominican Society of Pneumology, Dominican Society of Oncology and the Center for Obesity and Cardiovascular Diseases.
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