THE EDITOR, Sir:
Since the Tobacco Control Regulations have come into effect, there have been those who express the opinion that these regulations will hurt the poor; however, quite the opposite is the case.
It is not the Tobacco Control Regulations that will hurt the poor, but the tobacco industry (and others who benefit financially), which markets and sells an addictive and unhealthy product which is bought by mainly those who can least afford it.
The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (2008) found that there was a decline in the prevalence of current smokers as educational and socio-economic levels increased - 19 per cent and 20 per cent vs six per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.
On average, if a person smokes a pack of 20 cigarettes per day, he spends approximately J$250,000 per year on cigarettes. The minimum wage in Jamaica is J$260,000. How then can those in the lower socio-economic group who are addicted to cigarettes afford to support themselves and their family? Where will the money come from to buy food, pay bus fares, or for utilities, or purchase school shoes, etc? Not to mention the medical costs associated with this addiction.
Tobacco use is not just a health issue, it is a national development issue - and one that all well-thinking Jamaicans should be concerned about. The Tobacco Control Regulations will save countless lives by protecting our population from second-hand smoke, and the graphic health warnings covering 75 per cent of the cigarette package have been proven to be very effective in encouraging smokers to quit and are deterring many more from starting this unhealthy and economically draining habit.
It is because these large graphic health warnings are so effective that the tobacco industry would like to see the size reduced. The Tobacco Control Regulations (2013) are evidence based and are in keeping with the World Health Organisations' treaty - the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Government policies must benefit the majority of the population, and not the vested interests of a few. Health cannot be 'balanced' with profit.
Jamaica Coalition for