CLAREMONT, St Ann — Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson has said that while he is working out arrangements with the tourism industry in light of the ban on smoking in public places, he will not be agreeing to have smoking rooms in any building.
Dr Ferguson was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for a health centre of excellence in Claremont, St Ann last Friday.
"We are not trying to create any great inequity," he stated.
He, however, went on to add that he will not support having enclosed rooms for smoking.
"What I will not compromise yesterday, today or tomorrow is the indoor enclosed smoking. I am not putting any smoking room inside of any building. If smoking kills, why would you want to put 15, 20 or 25 persons in one room to smoke when nicotine is one of the most dangerous substance across the globe?" he said.
The minister also stated that the new smoking regulations will go for all, "whether it is rich or poor.
"I heard that there are some places that think they are bigger than the law. Some uptown, some upper-class, some upper-middle-class who are still smoking indoors. But you see these people who believe that they have a right that the little man don't have, the law is going to deal with them," he stated.
The minister said that he was not seeking to criminalise smokers, but to bring a sense of respect to the regulations.
He said that while the police have the power to act, he has asked that they consider issuing warnings first.
He also called on citizens to play their part in ensuring that the regulations are followed.
Dr Ferguson went on to add that while he does not intend "to water down" the regulations, there are also plans to reduce the fines.
Pointing out the dangers associated with smoking, Dr Ferguson said: "My thing is not to let you feel bad, but to bring the information to you and your family and allow you to make the decision."
Millions are spent yearly dealing with non-communicable diseases which include cancer, he highlighted.
Dr Ferguson said that the Claremont Centre of Excellence is a part of the comprehensive fight against non-communicable diseases.
The centre will be constructed at a cost of $40.6 million, with funding being provided by the National Health Fund.
"We are very happy with this centre of excellence because this constituency is so large. We border seven constituencies," Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna stated.
Hanna said that an upgrade of the present health centre to a centre of excellence will reduce the large number of persons who have to travel for several miles to get to the St Ann's Bay Hospital.
The new facility will also provide laboratory and dental services.
Hanna revealed that several other health centres in the constituency were being upgraded, with discussions now in place for a Type Two health centre in the Beecher Town area.
Councillor for the Claremont division, Lambert Weir, also expressed joy at the improvement expected to come to the area.
"I am happy, overwhelmed with this, knowing that services will be provided to communities all around," he said.
He also stated that the upgraded health facility will reduce the patient load going to the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital.