Suriname, November 27, 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – On November 22 & 23, a two-day workshop was hosted in Suriname regarding the tobacco industry interference organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Suriname. The primary focus was to enhance the nation's capability in countering the pervasive influence of the tobacco industry, with a specific emphasis on implementing Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). Under the theme "Training Tabaksindustrie en effectief beleid- herken de taktieken en voorkom beinvloeding," the workshop aimed to equip participants with the knowledge and strategies necessary to safeguard public health policies from the interference of the tobacco industry.
The workshop was opened by the Director of Health, Ministry of Health Dr. Rakesh Gajadhar Sukul and Dr. Noreen Jack from PAHO PWR Suriname who provided a welcoming address, underscoring the significance of the workshop in the broader context of public health, protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke'.
Under the coordination of the Tobacco Focal Point at the Ministry of Health/BOG, with participation of key stakeholders among them members of National Assembly, the tax authorities, academic institutions, District commissaries, representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Transport and Communication, Ministry of Justice and police, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Economic affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social affairs, Ministry of Internal affairs, Ministry of Defense.
The workshop navigated through various sessions designed to deepen participants' understanding of the challenges posed by the tobacco industry and empower them to effectively counter its influence.
The morning sessions laid the foundation by exploring the rationale behind focusing on the tobacco industry in Suriname, shedding light on the costs associated with tobacco use, and introducing the WHO FCTC, with a specific focus on Article 5.3. The mid-morning coffee break provided an opportunity for participants to network and exchange insights.
As the day progressed, the workshop delved into the intricate tactics employed by the tobacco industry to influence public health policies. Participants gained valuable insights into recognizing indicators of industry influence, setting the stage for the subsequent sessions on counteracting these tactics. Practical tools and guidelines, such as "Dealing with the Tobacco Industry" and the importance of declaring conflicts of interest, were highlighted as crucial instruments in the fight against tobacco industry interference.
The evaluation session, including a post-test quiz, marked a crucial juncture for participants to reflect on and consolidate their newfound knowledge. The official closure, punctuated by words of gratitude to the National Tobacco Control Team, transitioned seamlessly into a closing lunch, fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and camaraderie.
In conclusion, the workshop stood as a sign of commitment to the cause of public health in Suriname. The comprehensive speech delivered during the event underscored not only the unique challenges posed by the tobacco industry but also the unwavering dedication of the Ministry of Health to fortify tobacco control measures. PAHO's pledge of ongoing support echoed the collective sentiment to protect current and future generations from the profound consequences of tobacco consumption.
The tobacco industry cannot be compared to other industries or sectors because their products are deadly, and their interests are always opposed to public health policy interests. In Suriname evidence from Investment case showed a significant gain investing in five tobacco control measures with five or more times return in national economy. – PAHO/WHO Representative Dr Noreen Jack
The workshop, a pivotal step in aligning Suriname with its legal obligations under the WHO FCTC, aimed to empower stakeholders with the tools needed to navigate the complex landscape of tobacco industry influence. As the participants dispersed, the echoes of collaboration and a shared commitment lingered, creating ripples that will hopefully contribute to a healthier, tobacco-free Suriname.