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UWI students ramp up campaign against smoking

Published:Wednesday | April 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
University of the West Indies students display placards showing statistics about second-hand smoke and asking for support for an anti-smoking campaign. - Contributed

A group of University of the West Indies students have taken it up on themselves to visit events on campus to preach against cigarette smoking.

Ophir Gayle, the spokesperson for the group of students, which calls itself UWI Students against Second-hand Smoke (U-SASS), says the movement is to create awareness about the seriousness of second-hand smoke as well as to facilitate a reduction in the number of instances where persons smoke in public spaces and at events, in the process, putting others at risk.

The group has already visited several events on the Mona Campus, where they have handed out informative pamphlets as well as interacted with partygoers in an attempt to sway their minds about smoking.

"We decided to focus on events because students tend to smoke socially, especially as they drink. So we wanted to reach our target audience ... persons would have read our messages and therefore thought twice before actually smoking in public," Gayle said.

The group commends the Ministry of Health for the steps put in place to curtail irresponsible smoking practices. However, she contends that some persons are putting up strong resistance and continue to smoke in public spaces like parties.

"Smoking is an addiction so that alone is a hindrance. As a result of this, persons have put up a defence against the smoking ban in public spaces and are therefore unaware of what it really entails. Since the Tobacco Control Regulations are still under review, some persons are still not deterred by the sanctions that accompany it and are therefore still practising the behaviour," he said.

Gayle also said when the Health Ministry completes its fine-tuning of the rules which will govern the practice of smoking in the island, the results should give birth to several other health-conscious bodies and sensitisation campaigns.

Smoking is prohibited in the workplace, restaurants, bars and clubs.

U-SASS has so far received backing from reggae artiste Marcia Griffiths and the National Council on Drug Abuse.

In July 2013, health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson announced in Parliament that there would be a ban on smoking in public places.

"Tobacco kills up to half of its users and is the only industry that kills its best and most loyal customers," Ferguson had said.