Daniel Benítez (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — According to a survey conducted by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), more than 50 percent of Cuba’s population is exposed to the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, as one of every four persons over 15 is an active smoker.
The study revealed that three out of every 10 men are smokers and that 16 percent of all Cuban women are nicotine addicts. Dr. Patricia Varona, coordinator of MINSAP’s Special Lung Cancer Work Group, offered the Agencia Cubana de Noticias (“Cuban News Agency”) this information and said that nine million people were interviewed as part of the health department’s third survey on risk factors associated to smoking.
Nicotine addiction accounts for more than 80 percent of lung cancer cases and deaths among the island’s population.
Dr. Varona added that the survey also gathered data such as gender, age, skin color, educational level and profession.
The results of this study revealed to government entities that smoking habits are least common among university students, while people aged 40 to 50 constitute the country’s largest group of smokers.
The survey showed that the average starting age is 17. An expert pointed out, however, that there has been a 17 percent increase in the number of people who start smoking between the age of 13 and 15.
Two years ago, the World Smoking Survey, conducted by MINSAP in Cuba, revealed that young people in Cuba are among the heaviest smokers in all of Latin America. A total of 3,000 students in 456 different secondary schools across the country were interviewed as part of the survey.
According to the data provided by Varona, some 1,500 Cubans die every year of lung cancer and heart disease alone. Both conditions are closely linked to tobacco consumption. Malign tumors and heart conditions are the country’s two major causes of death. In 2013, they claimed the lives of 45,519 people.
The dangerous habit can also cause cancer of the pharynges, larynges, esophagus, bladder, urinary and biliary tracts, pancreas, kidney, stomach, liver and cervix.