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Significant decline in asthma admissions since smoking ban

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

MINISTER of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson says there has been a 20 per cent reduction in asthmatic admissions to hospitals since the imposition of the no smoking policy in specified public spaces.

The ban was imposed on July 15, with the implementation of the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013.

The regulations are consistent with the Government's 2013/14 strategic priority focus on human capital development in relation to health care.

The minister, who was speaking at the official launch of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica's (HFJ) annual 'Run for your Heart' event on October 29 at Emancipation Park in New Kingston, urged Jamaicans to continue supporting the ban, noting that the country will see the gains in terms of having a healthier society.

He said all non-communicable diseases are impacted by tobacco smoking.

"Within another couple of years, you will see, as has happened in Northern Ireland and other countries, less heart attacks, less strokes; and this is not at any big cost...all I ask of Jamaica is for support, that's all I'm asking," he stated.

The minister said efforts against tobacco advertising and promotion will also be intensified in accordance with Article 13 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

"We believe that the article must be taken very seriously and it is going to be part of our roll-out later down the road. Article 15, that deals with the illicit trade of tobacco, will also be (focused on as well) but right now, we are concentrating on dealing with the regulations that control smoking in public places," he said.

Dr Ferguson reiterated that the move to impose the ban was borne out of his "commitment to the people of Jamaica, to the children of Jamaica, to the workers of Jamaica, to the non-smokers and the smokers themselves".

"It is our view that we too have a right. We are not saying persons can't smoke, all we are saying is 'you must not smoke in some specified places'," he said.

He said the country spends billions each year addressing the ills caused by the effects of tobacco smoke, pointing out that the direct and indirect cost of tobacco use and exposure is estimated to be between US$750 million to
US$1.3 billion.

Dr Ferguson said commendations have been forthcoming from several heads of international and local agencies regarding the stance which has been taken.

"Those who have been fighting or pushing back (do so) because (of their own personal) interest. There are those who are talking about the revenue. We recognise that we are in a special period, and we recognise that tobacco is part of the commercial landscape but...my position is a pro-health position," he said.

The tobacco regulations outline places where smoking is prohibited, such as all enclosed places, public transportation, workplaces, government buildings, health facilities; sport, athletic and recreational facilities for use by the public; educational institutions; areas specifically for use by children, and places of collective use such as bus stops.

They also require the use of large, graphic health warnings on tobacco products, instead of the text-only warnings currently used.

The 2010 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, undertaken by the National Council on Drug Abuse, indicates that just over 40 per cent of young persons aged 13 to 15 years have smoked at least once and, alarmingly, over 19 per cent of those who have ever smoked started under the age of 10 years.

According to WHO statistics, tobacco kills up to half of its users and causes the death of nearly six million people each year, including more than 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

The statistics also show that across the globe, every six seconds, someone dies from tobacco-related illness; one in 10 adults dies every year because of tobacco; and nearly 80 per cent of the world's one billion smokers live in low-and-middle income countries like Jamaica.