The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has committed to continue its support of the Government's efforts to reduce tobacco use in Jamaica.
This assurance comes from PAHO/WHO Representative in Jamaica, Margareta Sköld, who says the organisation stands ready to assist the administration in its quest to, among other things, advance the passage of Tobacco Control Regulations.
"PAHO/WHO strongly supports the Government of Jamaica in its efforts to protect and safeguard public health by reducing exposure to the harmful effects of tobacco use, not least, through the passing of new Tobacco Control Regulations," she said in a message marking World No Tobacco Day on May 31, which was read by PAHO/WHO Health System and Services Development Advisor to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda, Marilyn Entwistle, at a National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) forum at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew.
Ms. Sköld noted that the proposed legislation aims to institute safeguards against unwanted tobacco exposure. Further that it is expected to form an integral part of the government's bid to address the economic and social impact which the heightened prevalence of non-communicable diseases, partly consequent on tobacco use, currently poses.
She advised that the move to initiate the legislation is consistent with obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Jamaica ratified in 2005.
In welcoming the forum's staging, Ms. Sköld said the event provided stakeholders and other participants with an opportunity to deliberate over practical solutions aimed at reducing tobacco use; improving the health and welfare of persons affected by non-communicable diseases, while seeking to reduce the incidence of these; and stimulating sustainable economic development.
Meanwhile, Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said the government is mindful of the fact that tobacco smoking "remains the most avoidable cancer risk."
As such, he assured that the administration continues to pursue policies and programmes that will reduce tobacco smoking and protect the health of the population. These, he pointed out, include instituting tobacco legislation, "which we are assiduously working on completing."
"Soon, I expect that we will have the legislation in place to ban smoking in public spaces," the Minister said.
On May 31 each year, countries affiliated with the WHO observe World No Tobacco Day, which highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use, and provides a platform advocating effective policies to reduce its consumption.
This year's global theme: 'Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship', stems from Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires a comprehensive ban of all advertising, promotional and sponsorship activities, that would result in a reduction in tobacco products consumption.
The local theme focused on the nation's young people, and was aptly coined: "Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship: Save Our Youth'.
According to the PAHO/WHO, tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats globally. It kills nearly six million people each year, of whom more than five million are users and ex users, and over 600,000 are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.
Data shows that at least one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, and that this accounts for one in 10 adult deaths.
CONTACT: ALECIA SMITH-EDWARDS