More fire on tobacco - Health Ministry planning additional smoking control measures
Two years after it implemented a ban on smoking in public areas, the Ministry of Health is considering additional measures to clamp down on the tobacco industry, including restrictions on the contact between public officials and tobacco companies.
An omnibus Tobacco Control Bill to house all regulations governing the industry is now being prepared and will be placed before Parliament.
"We continue to work on a comprehensive bill, which was agreed on, as Jamaica is a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since 2003 and ratified in 2005," outgoing Health Minister Fenton Ferguson told The Sunday Gleaner.
The next phase of the regulations could include a ban on advertising, promotions, and sponsorships by tobacco companies; the exclusion of tobacco companies from policy development; and the introduction of an illicit trade protocol and laws to limit interaction of government officials with tobacco industry officials.
In confirming some of the new changes being considered, Ferguson said the focus is on reducing the demand and supply of tobacco.
"We are concerned now as it relates to Article 13 (of the Framework), which has to do with tobacco advertising, promotions, and sponsorship. We are concerned about Article 15, which speaks to illicit trade, and we are moving towards a comprehensive bill," said Ferguson.
"We are also concerned about Article 5.3, which has to do with public officials and how they interact with the industry."
While the bill is still some way from reaching Parliament, Carreras Limited, which is the leading marketer and distributor of cigarettes and tobacco-related products in Jamaica, is already raising an alarm.
According to the company's latest annual report, one of the fears is that "the minister of health may move to unilaterally, and similar to his actions with the last set of regulations, introduce this next phase by ministerial decree".
The company said it had formally written to Ferguson to remind him of his commitment to the Parliament to bring all new laws for its review, and ultimately a vote, before those proposals became law.
"We also strongly believe that the Government cannot be solely focused on regulating and introducing draconian measures on the legal cigarette business, and this is why we support calls for the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products."
CARRERAS READY TO DEFEND
In a report to stockholders, the directors said Carreras is preparing to vigorously defend its rights as a legal company and against the passage of any measure or law that would seek to marginalise its commercial right or seek to undermine its legitimacy as a legal enterprise.
"We stand ready to work with the authorities in a balanced way to continue the introduction of regulations that are fair, practical, and all told, represent good law," the company said in an e-mailed response to a request from The Sunday Gleaner for more information.
According to Carreras, with the announcement and introduction of the smoking ban in 2013, it saw an approximately 30 per cent decline in its sales.
The company said it has since seen some recovery, albeit not at the pre-regulations level.
"We expect, based on worldwide trends and changing consumer habits following the implementation of tobacco control measures, that we will not regain the level of volumes pre-regulations," said the company.