Village-wide tobacco ban in Enpein Powe: First of its kind in the FSM
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): September 6, 2011 - On August 16, amid lush vegetation on the rainiest island in Micronesian, over 200 residents of Enpein Powe Village in Kitti Municipality, Pohnpei gathered to dedicate and celebrate what may have been the first of its kind in the entire Pacific sphere.
According to Mr. Herbert Mikel, village Chief of Enpein Powe, the village-wide ban on tobacco use in public functions came about through a long process. More importantly, such ban is a part of the villagers' serious attachment to their environment, something they are known for among other Pohnpeians.
"Because we rely on our environment, we also want to improve our health. For a community to achieve good health kids must be healthy, parents must be healthy physically and mentally. That's what we try to achieve, healthy community", Chief Mikel said in his remarks on that day.
The function was accorded a traditional ceremonial festivity with many local delights, including the "sakau" presentation in the presence of Wasahi Kitti, Honorable Gregorio Peter, one of highest traditional chieftainship in all of Kitti. Also in attendance were T.H. John Ehsa, Pohnpei State Governor, Vice Speaker of FSM Congress, Hon. Berney Martin, Chief Magistrate of Kitti, Keropin David, Ms. Susan White and Ms. Marybeth Welton from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (Office of Smoking and Health) Atlanta, USA, and staff of Tobacco and Cancer Prevention Program at the National Government headed by Second Lady Shra Alik, staff of Pohnpei State Tobacco and Cancer Control Program, and other staff of Pohnpei State Government as well as village leaders from Kitti and nearby sections.
As in the case of most of Micronesia, Enpein Powe has witnessed increasing addiction to tobacco use that can be linked directly to a hoist of severe health complications that seem to have been ushered in with the trends of "modernization" since the 1800's. The Chief Justice of Madolenihm Municipal Court, who is also the chairman of the Tobacco Free Coalition, traced the introduction of tobacco products in Pohnpei back to the late 16th century following "common trade routes" that crisscrossed the Pacific. Tobacco use is widely blamed as a contributing factor to certain cancer diseases as well as other non-communicable illnesses that are the forerunners among the leading causes of death in the FSM.
Ms. Welton of CDC congratulated the traditional and village leaders of Enpein Powe for making a bold policy and praised the governor and mayor for supporting the community "smoke free" effort that will have a great impact on the health of the community, "especially the children and their parents".
In thanking the visitors from CDC, Pohnpei State health officials and the FSM National Tobacco and Cancer Prevention Program for their presence, Chief Mikel, recently diagnosed with initial stage of asthma, expressed a desire to have a center in the FSM, if not in Pohnpei, solely dedicated to the treatment of respiratory related illnesses as part of combating the deadly grip of tobacco use and addiction.
The village-wide tobacco ban in Enpein Powe is indeed a community based endeavor in taking ownership of the vital role in promoting healthy lifestyle and taking a resolute stand against the silent brutal substance that arguably has surpassed the communicable diseases of the 1800's in terms of the magnitude of their epidemiological impacts.
In commenting on the Enpein Powe community based health promoting commitment, Mrs. Alik of the National Tobacco Control Program asserted that the commitment by the leaders and the people of Enpein Powe is important to note as it is a population impact movement that can serve as a model endeavor to other communities in the nation.
For more information, please contact the Pohnpei State Tobacco Program, Pohnpei State Cancer Prevention Program at 320-2465, or the FSM Tobacco Prevention Program at 320-5521.
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