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Smoking dangers must be on billboards - House committee

Published:Wednesday | September 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Michael Tucker

Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert Flynn asked for data to show the number of deaths that can be directly traced to smoking, and guests at yesterday's Human Resources and Social Development Committee meeting of Parliament were happy to oblige with frightening figures of many afflicted and dying at the National Chest Hospital.

The former athlete, gym instructor, trainer and fitness guru received support when she said Jamaicans must be made aware of such dangers, just like they are about lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

The committee was told that more than 65 per cent of lung -ancer cases at the hospital were smoking-related, and smoking was linked to several other cancers identified in victims being treated there.

Figures from the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) on the use and prevalence of tobacco and ganja use were equally frightening.




However, Cuthbert Flynn will be disappointed, as the multimillion-dollar public-education campaign on the dangers of smoking, including billboard advertisement, will not materialise.

This is because the NCDA's budget of $310 million over three years for an intensive media campaign did not get off the ground, as less than one-tenth of the required funds were received.

"There was a commitment from most ministries that were seen as stakeholders to support it. The initial tranche that came to us came through the Ministry of Health and through International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and Narcotics out of United States Embassy and amounted to in the region of maybe $30 million," NCDA's executive director Michael Tucker told the committee.

The sum allowed the NCDA to do useful work for three to five months, but not the type it wanted to do. Now the health ministry and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement have again come to their rescue.

"We have scaled back the programme. We have a commitment for $40 million in tranches of $4 million per month over a period of 10 months to roll out a programme that would be primarily placed on a social-media platform to reach youngsters," Tucker said, adding that traditional media would also be used.