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Minister of State for Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Colin Fagan, says a sustained public education programme, targeted particularly at the youth, is critical in raising awareness of the adverse effects of smoking.

“Statistics provided to me indicate a worrying trend that has shown that Jamaica is now having children as young as 10 years old addicted to smoking; a trend that is increasing,” he lamented.

The State Minister was speaking at the ‘Partnerships for Smoke Free Spaces’ breakfast meeting this morning (November 22) at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew.

Mr. Fagan said that equally of concern is the burden on the budget to manage the health effects of smoking, both for smokers and those who are exposed to second hand fumes.  He informed that of the approximately US$170 million per year spent on non-communicable diseases, a significant portion is related to tobacco smoking.

“Simply put, Jamaica cannot afford this. We need to be promoting healthy lifestyles, and tobacco use and smoking are clearly not among the contributing qualities,” he said.

Mr. Fagan informed that the Government remains steadfast in reducing tobacco use, signing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on September 24, 2003 and ratifying the agreement two years later on July 7, 2005. Legislation is also being drafted to ban smoking in public places, while the tax on tobacco has been raised as a means of control. The Government is also increasing public awareness through ongoing education and consumer information.

Mr. Fagan also pointed to efforts at the local government level, with the

St. Catherine Parish Council designating Emancipation Square a smoke free zone.

“I want to implore your organisation to work more closely with our parish councils and municipalities, all 14 of which, I am sure, would welcome you and partner with you for a cause that will redound to the benefit of our environment, our health sector and young people,” he urged.

Mr. Fagan also commended the efforts of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control towards the sensitisation of Jamaicans regarding the effects of smoking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) MPOWER 2009 Report, states that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and is a risk factor for six of eight leading causes of death worldwide.

Tobacco use kills more than five million people every year, more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, demonstrating the increasing burden of tobacco on the world’s health status, which, if current trends are not aggressively addressed, could kill more than eight million people per year by 2030, and up to one billion people in total in the 21st Century, the report said.

In addition to the effects on those that directly consume tobacco, one third of the world’s adult population are regularly exposed to second hand smoke, which kills 600,000 persons each year.