Malta - adults smoking less but girls are smoking more..

Malta Coat-of-Arms, click to enlarge:

October 20, 2009 - The number of adults in Malta who smoke is appreciably on the decline but young people, particularly girls, are smoking more, a news conference yesterday was told. The news conference was given to promote World Heart Day (last Sunday in September), when radio and television stations will be running an advert to raise awareness regarding the dangers of cardiovascular diseases.

Health parliamentary secretary Joe Cassar said that not enough people in Malta are knowledgeable enough about the dangers their lifestyles can pose. “Cardiovascular diseases are still the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year, even though the risk factors for heart diseases and strokes are well known.

“Recent statistics show that in 2007 in Malta, an estimated 21 percent of persons who passed away in that year had some form of cardiovascular-related disease or other. The Maltese government is treating this situation extremely seriously, with the investment in sophisticated machinery and advanced equipment in the field of cardiovalvulotomy (surgical correction of valvular stenosis by cutting or excising a part of a heart valve) being one of the highlights of the new Mater Dei hospital.

“However, our wish is not to cure cardiovascular-related diseases but to prevent such illnesses from cropping up in the first place. By increasing awareness throughout and promoting a vibrant educational campaign with school children at the centre of it all, the 21 per cent figure can be significantly reduced,” said Dr Cassar.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Charmaine Gauci said that there are certain factors, contributing to cardiovascular diseases, which are impossible to prevent or change, citing age, gender and family history as prime examples.

“Nevertheless, we constantly encourage the population to adopt healthier lifestyles. Although there are currently 20.3 percent of adults who are smokers, this is in contrast to last year as the figure was estimated to be around 22.7 percent. Worryingly though, while the adult smokers have decreased, young people, particularly girls, are smoking more. Little do they know that they are increasing the risk of heart disease in the prime of their life,” said Dr Gauci.

“Stress management, eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and using less salt and processed foods can also reduce death by cardiovascular disease. Malta has one of the highest rates of child obesity in the world, and we continuously stress the need of at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults, and 60 minutes for children,” she added.

Dr Cassar also took time to address the second food and water borne diseases and zoonoses (FWD) surveillance network conference, which is currently being held at the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Attard. “Unfortunately in this day and age,” he said, “a lot of food is being processed industrially and the adequate transport facilities have contributed to the globalisation of food. This has increased the possibility of food being contaminated in one way or another, which leads to the outbreak of such diseases.”

Representatives from European Union countries, applicant countries and countries of the European Free Trade Area, as well as representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), were also in attendance.

Malta - related news brief: Malta - April 2004 Smoking Ban A Success..

Reference: Adults in Malta smoking less, young people more by Scott Grech, Malta Independent Online, 10/20/2009.