Tufton renews war on tobacco
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says that while there is a law against smoking in public spaces in Jamaica, it will require a collaborative approach to effect the World Health Organization (WHO) policy framework to support legislation and ultimately reduce the use of tobacco.
"In Jamaica, we have made a lot of progress, and I give credit to my predecessor, Dr Fenton Ferguson. He did a lot to advance this cause through amendments to the legislation," said Tufton, who was giving the keynote address at the closing ceremony of the Jamaica Association of Public Health Inspectors (JAPHI) 71st annual conference, in Montego Bay, earlier this week.
"We have taken it on and we are moving now to comprehensive legislation to take on the tobacco interest through public education, through specific regulations on branding, advertising, and so on," continued Tufton. "But the truth of the matter is that we are not as successful as we should be in just enforcing smoking in public spaces."
He added, "We do have a law, but the reality is that people still light up where they want to, and for all intents and purposes, we have not been as effective because the cost to treat with tobacco-related illnesses is huge."
The health minister further argued that with seven million deaths globally from tobacco-related ailments each year, and over 80 per cent of the deaths taking place in developing countries, the situation is dire.
As part of a global initiative, on July 15, 2013, Jamaica banned smoking in all enclosed places, on public transportation, in workplaces, government buildings, health facilities, sports and recreational facilities, educational facilities, areas specifically for use by children, and places of collective use such as bus stops.
Based on the adopted position, persons can be fined up to $10,000 for breaches of the regulations, with a second offence carrying a fine of up to $25,000. For subsequent offences, a person may be fined up to $50,000.
Businesses, including clubs, bars, restaurants, and tourist establishments, that breach the regulations are liable to be fined up to $1 million.
"Frankly speaking, the tobacco companies are in the business of selling tobacco, and they are smart about it," explained Tufton. "They have resources, and they engage intellectual capacity, and the strategies have changed."
"I notice that increasingly, advertising is taking place. We will have to put a stop to that, and the legislation will," continues Tufton. "They (through adverts) are targeting certain segments in the population, lower socio-economic segments through direct selling, incentivising of persons to sell to others."
He added, "In other words, as public health inspectors, officials, and technocrats, we have to be smart about what we do because as we change the rules, intellectual capacity is applied to get around those rules ... it is a constant struggle."