Smoking ban makes good sense
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Smoking has been recognised as a serious medical problem and, in the last 40 years, has been linked irrefutably to many serious diseases of various tissues, including cancer, heart disease, gangrene of lower limbs, stroke and lung disease. Cigarette smoking also increases the complications of diabetes and hypertension.
Tobacco use is the second leading cause of worldwide mortality and imposes tremendous costs on society, both in terms of negative health consequences and economic losses. It is the single largest preventable factor contributing to the burden of disease, disability and death in Jamaica. Tobacco dependence (addiction) leads to reduced longevity by an average of 13.2 years among male smokers and 14.5 years among female smokers. The morbidity and mortality due to tobacco use are fully preventable.
Environmental tobacco smoke has been identified as a human carcinogen, which means that smoking does not just harm the smoker but non-users are also affected by tobacco. This kind of smoking is called passive smoking. Smokers choose to smoke, at least initially, and continue to do so in spite of knowledge of potential medical harm by virtue of their dependence on nicotine.
This continued use in spite of knowledge of harm to their health is one of the criteria used for arriving at a diagnosis of tobacco dependence. Most people do not choose to smoke passively but are nevertheless exposed to the harm it causes. Research shows that non-smoking partners of smokers are at increased risk of developing lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. In addition to the health risks, smoke can also be extremely unpleasant for non-smokers in public spaces, the workplace or in bars and restaurants.
Governments pay all or some of the cost of treating smoking-related diseases. Governments are expected to make decisions to maintain and improve the health and quality of life of citizens.
This means that governments should have a right to discourage smoking. Taxation measures, packet warnings and the ban of smoking in public spaces are well-known methods of reducing the abuse of, and dependence on, tobacco products, also of reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
Unfortunately, despite the enormous worldwide data on the perils of smoking tobacco, there are persons who deny the validity of the data and endeavour to denigrate efforts to reduce cigarette smoking in the community. One such article written by a foreign journalist in our local media sought to mislead readers about the need and effectiveness of banning cigarette smoking in public places.
Reports of studies undertaken in communities in various countries, in which a ban on public smoking was instituted, revealed a marked reduction in the incidence of, and deaths from, heart attacks. So let us help to improve the health of smokers and non-smokers in our community by introducing a ban on cigarette smoking in public places.
I am, etc.,
DR KNOX HAGLEY
Jamaica Coalition for