‘Smoking Out Tobacco’ wins Interamerican Journalism contest

34-GBTracy Moore
Global Bridges
34-flag United States of America
27 Sep 2013

Tracy Moore is the overall winner, and the first place print winner, of the 8th Interamerican “Vital Aire” Journalism contest, a contest sponsored by the InterAmerican Heart Foundation and Global Bridges in Latin America. Her article, “Smoking out Tobacco,” was published in the January 2013 issue of Better Health Magazine. Moore is a journalist with the Nation Publishing Company in Barbados, West Indies, where she covers health and general news.

What was the inspiration for the article?

I wanted to follow-up on an article I had written two years prior when the new law that banned smoking in public places was passed and instituted. I wanted to see how effective it really was over that time and to see how possible it would be to make for a total ban for a smoke-free Barbados.

This led to so many questions to be answered. I wanted to investigate that if we were to go for a smoke-free Barbados — how would it affect people’s privacy issues? For example, would a smoke-free Barbados mean no smoking in your home or anywhere else that is considered a private domain?

Then there is the issue of e-cigarettes and how they would fit in to the current ban, E-cigarettes are portrayed as safer than the real thing — but what proof do we have? In addition, if it is indeed a safer way to facilitate an addiction, how do we then place it in a possible smoke–free Barbados? Speaking of addiction, how would we assist that part of society with a smoke-free Barbados? Not everyone is successful with going cold turkey, some must be weaned off, some need steps — so what process is in place to assist those addicted to smoking if we were to go ahead with a smoke-free Barbados or can we look at an alternative that can help the smokers and the non-smokers?

Commercials are typically from the prospective of the non-smoker and how second-hand smoke affects their lives. If we see anything about the smoker, we see the scary black lungs, the hole in the throat, all the scary stuff — but does it really stop the smoker who is addicted to the habit? The packaging on cigarettes doesn’t stop the sale to someone who really needs a cigarette.

I really wanted to raise the issue to facilitate conversation about a very important topic that could save lives but in a non-judgmental, informative and thought-provoking way because it’s not just about us who do not smoke that is part of this conversation. A smoke-free Barbados would heavily affect the smokers in our society and in order for any further talk about smoking out tobacco permanently and successfully on this island, the process must include the smokers too.

What, if any, challenges did you face researching and writing the article?

My challenge wasn’t political or cultural but more informational. We don’t have a lot of information statistically in Barbados that could assist with the research I needed for the article. You would note that a lot of the information was from research done internationally.

Do you think your article will have any impact in Barbados?

On a national level it definitely should but I am biased! The last article I wrote about e-cigarettes and their invasion into the local market led to a national conversation whereby the government was looking to include the e-cigarette product as part of the public smoking ban law. I think it would only make sense if we seek for a smoke-free Barbados that these questions must be asked and answers sought.

On an individual level, I would hope that any person reading the article would themselves seek to find out more about e-cigarettes and their proclaimed safety before taking that alternative puff, or even further, take steps to crush the habit before they are forced to. Either way the article begs for any person affected — which I would presumptuously say is everyone — to think twice but also engage in dialogue on the issue.

Are you otherwise active in the tobacco control arena?

I sit as a board member with the National Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Commission in Barbados where part of what we do is advise the Minister of Health on all NCD issues, not just tobacco.

We know that non-communicable diseases are the leading killer globally — almost two-thirds of all deaths (or 36 million people) each year with nearly 80% (or 29 million) of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries like Barbados. And we know that cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, (17.3 million people annually) followed by cancers (7.6 million), respiratory diseases (4.2 million), and diabetes (1.3 million).

All of these diseases share four risk factors — inactivity, abuse of alcohol, poor diets and of course tobacco use — so as a Commission we do what we can to fight these battles in this slow but progressive war. We are, however, very proud of our initiative that led to the legal ban on smoking in public areas in Barbados. But the battle continues and must be won because our lives depend on it.

What’s next?

I continue to research and write on issues like this that affect us as individuals and as a society. I try to make a difference with my words — to create dialogue that could affect positive change. That, I think, is the role of a journalist and that’s what I am. I am quite grateful for being selected for this award and am enormously humbled by the honour.

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