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Tobacco Coalition concerned about smokers in low-income category

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2017 | 1:35 PM
Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and Jamaica Coalition on Tobacco Control board member, Deborah Chen (left), and Director of Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries Prevention in the Ministry of Health, Dr Tamu Davidson-Sadler.

The Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC) is concerned about the debilitating effects of tobacco on persons from low-income households who use it.

Speaking on Wednesday, which was observed as World No Tobacco Day, JCTC board member Deborah Chen explained that the majority of Jamaican tobacco users are from the lower socio-economic group.

According to Chen, who is also executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, 20 per cent of persons who only attained a primary education smoked.

This, she said, is in stark contrast to the 14 per cent of persons with secondary education and six per cent of individuals who attained tertiary training.

"The persons who are buying the cigarettes are those who can ill afford it, and this is where the economic issues become a major concern. If you smoke a pack a day (using the average going price for different brands of cigarettes, you will spend about $360,000 a year on cigarettes, if you smoke 20 per day. If you buy them by the stick, then it will be more than the $360,000," she outlined.


Chen said the issue was further compounded by tobacco companies' practice of dispatching bike riders into inner-city communities to sell cigarettes.

This, she said, was unfortunate as it was the most vulnerable members of the society who would suffer the greatest.

She said consequent on the minimum wage being just over $300,000, this raised concerns about the ability of smokers in the lower-income bracket to sustain themselves and their families, if they try to maintain this costly habit.

In this regard, Chen said the coalition urges smokers in the lower-income bracket to consider redirecting funds spent on cigarettes into taking care of their households.