For the smoking ban to work...

Friday, June 28, 2013

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Like any other tough regulation, the Government's ban on smoking in public spaces is being welcomed and rejected by Jamaicans.


Those opposed say it represents an assault on their personal liberty, a move to legislate how they enjoy themselves.


Those in favour are happy that they will no longer fear the effects of second-hand smoke which, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), kills more than 600,000 people each year.


Tobacco, the WHO tells us, kills nearly six million people each year. More than five million of those deaths are from direct tobacco use.


The United Nations agency has also projected that "the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030" unless urgent action is taken.


Part of that action was the signing and ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by 168 states that, under the treaty, have a responsibility to promote public health and subscribe to new legal dimensions for international health co-operation.


The WHO explains that the "FCTC was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health".


Jamaica, being a signatory to that treaty, has a responsibility to observe its provisions. As such, we support the Government's efforts to abide by the treaty, because we have seen too often the destructive effects of smoking on the lives of our fellow Jamaicans.


We recall how late journalist and Observer columnist Mr John Maxwell battled lung cancer for two years before finally succumbing to respiratory failure in December 2010.


His story, unfortunately, is not unique, as there are thousands of other Jamaicans who have fallen to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer caused by smoking or second-hand smoke.


Health experts have also said that second-hand smoke can cause sudden death in infants, and low birth weight in pregnant women.


We are not privy to data on tobacco-related relevant to Jamaica. However, we remember that three years ago doctors here were telling us that cardiovascular disease was responsible for 20 deaths in Jamaica every day.


That is a most frightening number that should cause us to sit up and take seriously any effort to tackle that problem.


We expect that the Government's ban on smoking in public spaces, however, will result in a decrease in cigarette sales. This, in turn, will affect the State's contribution to the National Health Fund which benefits from a portion of the tax on tobacco products.


The dilemma the Government will now face is how to recover that shortfall, which amounts to just over $1 billion annually.


While the Government mulls how it will deal with that problem, it must also examine the enforcement measures it needs to implement to ensure compliance with this new regulation.


For if the State's performance in relation to the anti-litter law is anything to go by, the smoking ban will end up in smoke.




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