THE EDITOR, Sir:
'Second-hand smoking is eating your children alive!' (Message from the National Health Fund)
"For every tobacco dollar in taxes, the Government spends between $8 and $13 dealing with smoking-related illnesses." (Health ministry)
"The direct and indirect cost of tobacco use is between US$750 million and US$1.3 billion." (Adrian Booth, official in health ministry)
I do support the ban on smoking in public spaces because of the well-documented health hazards that even second-hand smoking poses. What, however, I will never support is any anaemic or erroneous analysis advanced in support of this argument.
An argument (in this context) is a fact or assertion offered as evidence that something is true. And it can be used for the purposes of explanation, justification or persuasion.
When I read the report ('Smoking costing Gov't more than it pays') in The Gleaner of Thursday, October 10, 2013, I had doubts regarding the actual sum it implied smoking was costing the Government annually. It was stated that Carreras, which is the leading marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products in Jamaica, contributes $11 billion annually to the national Budget.
Based on the health ministry's figures one would, therefore, reason that the Government was spending roughly $100 billion to treat smoking-related illnesses.
Basic arithmetic and an initial analysis indicate that these given figures do coincide. But the grand discord comes when we also analyse the fact that only $33 billion was allocated to the health ministry for recurrent expenditures in the last two budgets.
Even if ALL the funds allocated to the health ministry annually were used to treat only smoking-related illnesses, this would, therefore, mean that for each tax dollar obtained from the tobacco industry, the Government would be spending no more than $3 to treat the related illnesses! Or, does the health ministry have additional funding of a billion US dollars annually?
There was no research done in Jamaica to determine the cost of smoking to the Government. These figures were simply extrapolated from North America, without careful and deeper analysis.
Data should determine policy. Given the national importance of this issue, there needs to be an urgent correction and clarification of these figures by the health ministry.
DAIVE R. FACEY