Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the move by the Government to ban smoking in public spaces will not be easy, but is a task that has to be undertaken to protect public health.
He was speaking on Monday, June 3, at the Medical Association of Jamaica’s (MAJ) Symposium at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.
The Minister informed that six million persons are dying annually from tobacco smoking and 600,000 from passive smoking, just from being in the same space with someone who smokes.
“My mandate as a Minister of Health is to ensure and protect the health of the nation. Therefore, I ask for your support because when that decision is taken, it’s not going to be easy,” he stated.
“Cigarette companies are very powerful but I believe that it still remains the one industry that kills its most loyal and best customers and therefore, for us, we must do what we have to do,” he stressed.
The Government is seeking to put into place a Tobacco Control Act that will protect citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco smoking, by prohibiting its use in public areas and workplaces.
Dr. Ferguson noted that 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.
He stressed that his position on the matter “is not an anti-smoker position; it is a pro-health position. Therefore we must recognise that it is not a personal thing.”
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 smoking-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