JIS News

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has emphasized that the ban on smoking, which takes effect July 15, is not intended to harass smokers, but to reduce non-communicable diseases.

“I don’t believe we can try to police this (law) by witch hunting. Over time, as the public information becomes more available, and persons recognise that there is this ban on smoking in public spaces, you will see less and less disregard for citizens by smokers,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson was addressing a post-Sectoral Debate press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, June 26, where he clarified aspects of the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations (2013), which he announced in the House of Representatives on June 25.

The Minister assured that the Ministry is not simply imposing the regulations, which he said, “may appear to some as being draconian”.

He pointed out that the Ministry is also making preparations for smokers to receive counselling to help them quit, as well as to assist persons who have not started smoking, to understand that tobacco smoking is a very serious risk to their health.

“With other kinds of morbidity, it makes your situation so much worse,” he noted.

[RELATED: No Smoking in Public Places as of July 15]

Meanwhile, Minister Ferguson pointed out that as with all other laws, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is integral to the enforcement process.

“One of the reasons why we did not make an announcement to bring it into effect immediately, is that we felt it would have been important to have time to have one-on-one with the critical stakeholders – namely the JCF and critical partners – so that as we roll out, there is no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the regulations,” he said.

He also pointed out that in arriving at a decision on the regulations; the Ministry had worked closely with the Ministry of Justice, as well as the Attorney General’s department.

“What we want to do in going forward with the regulations…it is not about Government going out to charge people for smoking. It’s a pro health position. Six million persons across the globe die annually (from tobacco smoking) – 600,000 of those are passive smokers. Every 6 seconds someone dies from a tobacco related illness, and 50 per cent of all persons who smoke, eventually die from smoking,” he emphasized.

The Minister reminded that Jamaica has been strident in the activities surrounding the World Health Assembly’s resolution for a 25 per cent reduction in avoidable deaths from non-communicable diseases by 2025.“My position is not just anti-smoking or anti-tobacco – my position is pro-health,” Dr. Ferguson said.

In his 2013/14 Sectoral Debate presentation, the Minister noted that non-communicable diseases account for 60 per cent of deaths in Jamaica per year, and the Government spends in excess of US$170 million annually to treat these diseases.

The regulations fall under the Public Health Act, and prohibit smoking or holding a lit electronic tobacco or tobacco product in public places, workplaces, public transportation, all government-owned or occupied buildings, health facilities (including pharmacies), sport, athletic and recreational facilities (for the use of the public), educational institutions, bus stops, and areas specifically used by children.

“The measure is expected to reduce the number of children who begin smoking and increase the number of smokers who will quit,” Dr. Ferguson said.

The regulations also include requirements for tobacco product disclosures, which will enhance the Government’s capacity to monitor the extent of the tobacco epidemic and produce the data needed to inform further tobacco control measures.

Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, hosted the press briefing.

Contact: Alphea Saunders