Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says he will be seeking the assistance of local and international partners, including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in the effort to reduce tobacco use in Jamaica.
The Government is working to put in place a Tobacco Control Act, which will protect citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking, by prohibiting its use in public areas and workplaces.
“When it takes place, I will be calling upon PAHO and other institutions for support because we are up against a very powerful industry and it is going to require allies, local and international, in going forward,” Dr. Ferguson said.
The Minister was speaking at a luncheon held on June 14 at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge. The event was hosted by the Health Minister in honour of the visiting Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne.
When the legislation comes into effect, Jamaica will join countries in the Caribbean such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname that have already passed such statute.
Dr. Ferguson said the Government is determined to ban public smoking, even while the tobacco industry brings to the table, significant tax revenue for the country.
“I heard their financial statements only a week ago… almost $6.5 billion profit. But, whatever that might be, I am saying at the back-end, we are fighting to put in place a strategic plan (2013/2018) for non communicable diseases (NCDs). When we come to recognise that it is costing the country some US$170 million annually to deal with the NCDs, it is very clear in my mind that we have a responsibility,” he stated.
Statistics from the 2008 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey show that by the age of 16 years, 19 per cent of smokers had initiated the habit and 14.5 per cent smoke cigarettes, while 13.5 per cent admit to marijuana use.
Figures provided by the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) reveal that approximately 80,000 young people across the world become addicted to tobacco each day and if trends continue, an estimated 250 million children and young people will die as a result of tobacco-related illnesses.
The anti-smoking legislation is in keeping with Jamaica’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Contact: Latonya Linton