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Tufton tables new Tobacco Control Bill; NCDs in focus

8 DECEMBER 2020

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Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, has tabled in Parliament the Tobacco Control Bill which, if transformed into law, is to help address the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) affecting the Jamaican population.

NCDs - including cardiovascular diseases such as cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – are caused by four major behavioural risk factors, including tobacco use, which is labelled as the most preventable among the applicable factors. The others are physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets.

The new Bill also puts Jamaica in line to satisfy its outstanding obligations under the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty (FCTC), which it ratified some 14 years ago. These are obligations that could not be satisfied under the existing Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013.

In August 2014, the WHO FCTC Convention Secretariat, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, conducted a needs assessment for Jamaica’s implementation of the treaty. The aim was to identify the implementation gaps and provide technical and financial assistance to accelerate the island’s compliance with its treaty obligations.

Stakeholder consultations were done and involved several ministries, departments and agencies, as well as international stakeholders, including the Convention Secretariat, PAHO/WHO, the International Legal Consortium (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), and civil society bodies, such as the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control.

Cabinet subsequently approved the issue of drafting instructions to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to develop legislation in keeping with Jamaica’s WHO FCTC obligations. That approval took account of the island’s previous efforts with the implementation of the FCTC, which resulted in the current Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013 (as amended) and covering FCTC provisions for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke; regulation of tobacco product disclosures; and packaging and labelling of tobacco products.

These provisions are now addressed in the Bill and, in addition to the matters covered in the Regulations, address:

- The regulation of the interactions of Government officials with the tobacco industry; and

- The testing and measurement of the contents and emissions of tobacco products and provisions for the disclosure of toxic substances to the public.

“Additionally, provisions have been included in the Tobacco Control Bill to warrant effective enforcement and to ensure that the same accords with Jamaica’s obligations under the FCTC and international best practices,” noted Tufton, who tabled the Bill last week.

“The intention is to have the Bill considered by a Joint Select Committee. This committee, in keeping with its usual mandate, will allow for further review, consultation and deliberation following its report on the Bill,” he added.

According to WHO data, more than five million deaths worldwide result from direct tobacco use and more than 600,000 from non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“These are not statistics to which we can turn a blind eye, and certainly not when we consider our youth who are most vulnerable to the illicit trade in tobacco products,” said Tufton.

According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2017, some 15.6 per cent of students (15.9 per cent of boys and 15 per cent of girls) used tobacco products in Jamaica.

In addition:

-14.4 per cent of students (14.4 per cent of boys, and 13.9 per cent of girls) smoked tobacco;

-11.2 per cent of students (11.1 per cent of boys, and 10.9 per cent of girls) smoked cigarettes; and

- 2.6 per cent of students (2.8 per cent of boys, and 2.5 per cent of girls) used smokeless tobacco.

The data comes against the background of a reported 70 per cent of Jamaicans having an NCD, with one in eight having diabetes and one in three having hypertension.

 Source: Loop