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Health minister wrong on Article 5.3 - Carreras

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson's insistence on total exclusion of persons representing tobacco interests from the regulatory process or from engagement with those in authority tasked with regulating the tobacco industry is inconsistent with the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

That's the view of Carreras Jamaica Limited, local distributors of cigarettes and whose operations bring it directly in conflict with the Government of Jamaica's mandate to reduce significantly in a structured and sustained programme the impact of tobacco-related illnesses on the population.

The health minister has promised a clampdown aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco products as well as the influence of this very rich and powerful global industry, charging that the interests of both industries are irreconcilable. To this end, the country is moving to implement Article 5.3 of the FCTC which deals with the interaction of public officials with members of the tobacco industry.

"Its power (tobacco industry) and influence are wide-reaching and its approach very subtle. As health minister, I remain undaunted by the challenges that we continue to face and recommit myself yet again to advancing the FCTC agenda," Dr Ferguson told a recent stakeholders meeting in Kingston.

However, Carreras is contending that the health minister's interpretation of the regulation he is seeking to implement is misinformed.

"Contrary to the minister's remarks, the FCTC does not advocate industry exclusion from the regulatory process or from engagement with those authorities tasked with regulating the tobacco industry. Moreover, such exclusion is contrary to the better regulation principles of the United Nations that recommend the inclusion of all stakeholders in any regulatory process," the company said in a news release.

"Additionally, we need to also make it very clear that the WHO guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 are not binding. The truth is, these guidelines contain no specific requirements with respect to government representatives holding meetings with the tobacco industry, and do not mandate a complete exclusion of the legitimate tobacco industry," argued Christopher Brown, head of Corporate & Regulatory Affairs.

"We again would also like to reject any assertion by the minister that the industry players are not above board in dealings with parliamentary colleagues or other public officials. We are committed to continue to protect the right as a company to engage with key policymakers in ensuring that

policy decisions are taken in a balanced way. We restate that Carreras is not opposed to

tobacco regulations. We will, however, stand against any effort to introduce draconian and blatantly impractical regulations."