JIS News

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  • The ban on smoking in public places ties into the National Development Plan, Vision 2030
  • The banning of smoking in public places is also part of an overall strategy to reduce NCDs

Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the ban on smoking in public places is part of a broader strategy that will tie into the National Development Plan, Vision 2030, to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Speaking on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Issues and Answers’ programme on July 18, the Health Minister pointed to the establishing of four Centres of Excellence at the primary healthcare level, and the move towards setting up a Centre of Excellence for cancer treatment as part of that broader strategy.

He informed that “Cancer (treatment) is our big ideas project at the Ministry” and bringing in the LINAC machine that will give better radiation services to cancer patients, is part of an overall plan. The linear accelerator, or LINAC for short, is the machine most commonly used to deliver external beam radiotherapy treatment to cancer patients.

Dr. Ferguson noted that Jamaica is a signatory at the World Health Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO). “We raised the Resolution about reducing by 25 per cent, the number of avoidable deaths from non-communicable diseases.  So, what we are doing now is part of that overall strategy,” he said.

He pointed out that in the context of Jamaica, there are four risk factors -inappropriate nutrition, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol and tobacco use – for non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancers. “Now, of all of them, tobacco use is the worst of the risk factors, because a little tobacco, a puff, is bad for you,” Dr. Ferguson said.

The Minister pointed out that it is costing the country US$170 million annually to deal with non communicable diseases in the public institutions. “We are not talking about persons who go to private practitioners. So, in going forward, while you are dealing with the curative to the best of our ability and the challenges that this poses, you also have to deal with the risk factors,” he said.

He said the banning of smoking in public places is also part of an overall strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs), over time, and  to extend mortality and save lives. The Minister noted that based on the evidence from countries that have similar legislation in place, such as Northern Ireland, Canada and parts of the United States, there has been a drop in the number of patients with strokes and heart attacks.

Dr. Ferguson pointed out that persons living with diabetes and other NCDs and who smoke or are exposed to passive smoke, the records show that their lifespan is cut between 10 and 15 years.

“So, the benefit of what we are attempting to do now, in another couple of years, you will begin to see it …saving lives,” he said.