Realizing the consequences of smoking
The Tobacco Coalition claims their primary concern at this point in time is the enforcement of the set policies and laws regarding smoking in public, and all parties involved are in the process of being trained for implementation.
In October 2010 then Governor Togiola Tulafono signed the American Samoa Smoke Free Environment Act into law, which brought smoke-free air to American Samoa's restaurants and bars, as well as many workplaces.
During their presentation before the Bilateral Health Summit on the challenge of Non-communicable Diseases, Representative Puleleiite Tufele Li’amatua Jr and Father Vaiula Iulio said there should be training for all legislation enforcers — such as health inspectors, public safety officers, village mayors and leaders — on the smoke-free law implementation.
Pulelei’ite said all parties involved have been informed in detail about the policies pertaining to the act against smoking in public places and the Department of Health (DOH) since October 2013 has enforced the “smoke free workplace policy law no. 13-02” for all DOH health centers.
The Department of Education is also aggressively spearheading non-smoking campaigns in classrooms and campuses, he noted.
He also pointed out that non-profit organizations like the various religious denominations have been enforcing non-smoking boundaries within church facilities. However, the challenges are that “the community just doesn’t care and still hasn’t realized the critical consequences and fatal impact of what smoking does to one’s health."
Government leaders, policy makers and enforcers are not prioritizing the seriousness of smoking and its consequences, they noted, adding that " the business community only regards the profits from the product instead of the effects of the product on people’s lives.”
The presenters noted they are seriously looking into tax increases for cigarettes in order to encourage and promote more smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places and also to provide more health information/warnings, advertising and promotion of non-smoking outreach programs.
Fr. Vaiula said they need to develop better television and radio ads to educate the community on their ‘quit’ program and the smoke-free legislation. As it stands, they are only getting 8% of referrals for their ‘quit’ program from TV and radio programs where health specialists advise and counsel on the health impacts of smoking.
“We need to re-focus and evaluate the outreach content that we’re using on TV and radio programs, i.e. with more persuasive commercial slides and radio ads.”
He said apparently radio and TV ads are "not working”.
Fr. Vaiula did state that based on the 8% of referrals from the radio and TV ads calling for villages and organizations to register with DOH for quit-smoking programs, three of the villages registered have the highest population in the territory and the top three denominations from referrals are those who refuse to disclose their church affiliation, the CCCAS and the Catholics.
According to their figures, ethnic groups who registered other than Samoans are Filipinos, Fijians, Hawaiians, Tongans and Europeans.
He said that ASG DOH is the only health facility in the South Pacific with a tobacco free quit line however, it is not manned 24-7. But according to the stats provided by DOH, not one single call had been ignored or dropped.
Pulelei’ite said he hopes to implement a 24/7 Quit Line along with text messaging services and they are hoping to increase the current 8% response to 20% by the end of 2016. The Tobacco Coalition is also looking at other means of popular networking resources for implementation in the near future, using social media.
They are also looking to implement a consistent event calendar planned for sports as well as establishing relationships with non-profit organizations such as religious denominations within the villages, targeting youth groups.
They hope to identify innovative strategies to increase the number of quit participants and increase the accessibility of a 24/7 Quit Line Operation, along with an increased awareness of the existence and advantages of the Smoke Free Quit Line.