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  • Minister willing to consider allowing businesses to have a special area outdoors to facilitate smokers
  • Dr. Ferguson said he is not averse to having a second look at the penalties

Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says he is willing to look at the possibility of allowing businesses, especially in the tourist industry, to have a special area outdoors to facilitate smokers.

The Minister, who was speaking on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) programme, ‘Issues and Answers’, on July 18, was clear about not allowing smoking rooms.

“The evidence is clear that smoking kills. The evidence is clear that passive smoking kills. So, to put 10 to 15 persons in this room, what you are essentially setting up is a death chamber, because you now have concentration of smoking,” the Minister said.

He noted that on a visit to one of Kingston’s most popular hotels, he was shown an area some five metres from the entrance, where smoke was not allowed to get into the building, and “they have created a little garden and an area where, if persons want to smoke from time to time, you can go out there and have your little smoke.”

“I am not encouraging it, but I am not opposed to that,” Dr. Ferguson said.

He pointed out that the new anti-smoking regulations are not a wholesale ban on smoking. “What we want to define is that once it (smoking) is going to impinge on someone else’s right, then the ban chips in. So in essence, if you want the right to smoke, do it where you do not affect the public in general,” the Minister said.

Dr. Ferguson said he is not averse to having a second look at the penalties for breaking the ban, to include mandatory counselling for offenders.

“I know some persons are a little worried about the fines and even conviction. My thing is not about sending anyone to prison. So, probably we might need to look, in revisiting, at some kind of mandatory counselling sessions, because cigarette smoking is an addiction and to that extent, it oftentimes require professional help,” he argued.

The Minister pointed out that the ban on smoking in specific public places, in addition to protecting the lives of non smokers, including workers and children, is also part of an overall vision of the administration to “create for Jamaica, going forward, the health hub for the Americas.”

Dr. Ferguson noted that Jamaica is the fourth in the region, behind Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Suriname, to have implemented the ban on smoking in specific public places. He also informed that it is not an attempt at any kind of draconian action to trample on anyone’s rights, but to protect workers, children and non-smokers.

“For those who are arguing…rights have to be balanced, because the evidence we have, relative to smoking, is that six million persons are dying annually across the globe from cigarette smoking. Of that number, 600,000 are dying from passive smoking,” the Minister said.

“Every six seconds, someone dies from some kind of tobacco related illness. One in 10 adults across the globe annually dies from some kind of tobacco related illness. Fifty per cent of the one billion smokers who continue to smoke will die from some kind of tobacco related illness. Eighty per cent of the persons affected by tobacco smoking are found in low and middle income countries like Jamaica,” he added.

He emphasized that the impact of the ban will be seen in the long term, noting that he will be saving people’s lives in the process. He also informed that the Ministry, in collaboration with other stakeholders, will be embarking on a massive public education programme over the next eight months.