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'Ban public smoking'

Published:Wednesday | September 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dr Herb Elliott. - File

André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter

Elliott calls for new law to help fight doping

Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) chairman, Dr Herb Elliott, is calling for the speedy passing of the law which would ban the practice of smoking in public places, citing that it not only jeopardises general health, but also makes it difficult to accurately test some sporting personalities - footballers in particular - for banned substances.

A long-time advocate for the legislation, Elliott, who has served for over a decade on the IAAF's Medical and Anti-Doping Commission, explained to The Gleaner that his organisation is finding it difficult to properly test local footballers because they are exposed to large amounts of marijuana and cigarette smoke during games.

"So this is a serious problem, especially at football matches," Elliott said.

"The real challenge is this: sometimes I personally have to leave the football game and I am almost drunk from all the smoking that takes place around me. I have to leave my seat and find an open space in order not to ingest the secondary smoke of ganja, and likewise more often than not and it is also really affecting the athletes," Elliott said.

"The players inhale that smoke, the ganja smoke adheres to the fatty tissue in their body and it doesn't come out right away, it comes out gradually, and so therefore it comes out in their urine, and when you test them, the urine has ganja in it and they are saying 'but doctor I don't smoke', but they are in areas where people smoke and are affected by secondary smoke," Elliott explained.

The Legislative Committee of Cabinet is currently undertaking consultations on the proposed legislation, but Elliott is expecting it to be tabled soon and passed into law, a move he described as crucial to the country's continued fight against drug violation in sport.

"So the law that we are trying to get passed is that you cannot smoke in public places, which will include both cigarette and marijuana," Elliott pointed out. "If we can get this sorted, then we will have the basis to lock up some people and also to protect our athletes.

"The Ministry of Health is pushing that through. Their target was cigarette smoking, which of course is very dangerous and cost us a lot of money, with lung cancer growing up and so on and so therefore, if we can ban that practice in public places, it will be very good, but it also means that at the same time we can ban ganja, and if we are able to do this, it will help us significantly," he underlined.

"We have to continue educating our athletes, whether they be in prep school or the professional levels; it is very important in the fight against doping in sport that they know about these dangers as well," Elliott underlined.

Several European countries have banned smoking in public places. These include France, Italy, England, Sweden and Ireland.