Health Minister, Hon Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the government is "profoundly concerned" about the devastating impact of smoking and the fact that more teenagers are abusing tobacco.
“It is with alarm that I have observed that the 13 to 15 age cohort is the group being seduced into the practice of tobacco use and the products are becoming more and more innovative,” he stated.
The Health Minister, who was addressing a recent press briefing at his downtown Kingston offices, said the government deems it a priority to protect and safeguard public health by reducing exposure to the harmful effects of tobacco use through a comprehensive Tobacco Control Act.
The Ministry is finalising preparations to seek Cabinet approval for the draft bill that will provide sweeping protection against unwanted tobacco exposure.
It is designed to reduce demand for tobacco products over time, protect persons and the environment from tobacco smoke, and prevent the elicit supply of tobacco products.
Dr. Ferguson said the legislation is an integral part of the government’s bid to address the increase in non-communicable diseases, treatment of which is causing a significant burden on the public purse.
It is also in keeping with obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Jamaica ratified in July 2005. The enactment of domestic legislation emanating from the treaty is outstanding.
The Ministry is also moving to enact legislation that will reduce discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.
Cabinet, in March, granted approval for amendment to the Public Health Order Act, to add a section stating that HIV/AIDS should only be designated as a communicable disease for the purpose of reporting and surveillance.
The objective is to ensure that no person is discriminated against as a result of having HIV/AIDS classified as a “notifiable and communicable disease”.
The drafting instructions have been issued to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC).
Dr. Ferguson said the development must be viewed within the context of Jamaica’s unfinished agenda relating to reducing stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV and AIDS.
“It is also an important signal to the rest of the world that Jamaica is committed to adhering to the fundamental principles of human rights and is serious about pursuing a rights-based approach to health,” he stated.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter