Basseterre, St. Kitts – The government of St. Kitts and Nevis is set to make a move that will see the banning of smoking in public places as they step up efforts improve the health of lives of citizens and residents.

Minister of Health Wendy Phipps said the process will start this month as it relates to smoking in public places.

“Obviously, we would have to do consultation on it, but, at the same time, I would venture to add that I would be surprised that any private sector entity and any NGO group or special interest groups out there have a difficulty with us banning smoking in public places,” she said, “especially when you consider the body of growing evidence that suggests obvious linkages to cancer. It is not just limited to those who are smokers, but there is also a growing body of evidence of [people] dying from second-hand smoke as well.”

She added that when it relates to legislation against smoking, one has to pay attention to what is happening.

“The president of Colombia has gained recognition…as he earned himself a WHO award last year at the PAHO conference in September for the work he was able to do in terms of cutting down on the influence of and impact of the tobacco companies on the people of Colombia,” she said

She also indicated that similar moves will be made as it relates to transfats. “That is something that even our Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Unit continues to advocate for our people that we should use such fats and oils sparingly,” she said. “They advocate for the use of healthier fats such as extra virgin olive oil and peanut oil.”

Phipps added that these are issues they will continue to advocate for and continue to get public and special interest group’s involvement in.

“At the end of the day, the government has the moral responsibility to make sure we provide the legislative infrastructure support and enforcement that not only promote, but protect health and wellness,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is for each of us to be vigilant with our health.”

She further stated that wherever possible where government can use their mandated power to legislate and to advocate for healthier lifestyles for the people even if they don’t want it, but it is in their best interest.

“We have the responsibility to do so because there is a growing number of [people] who are suffering from NCDs, and when they can’t come to work, there is a cost,” she said. “When they have to stay home to look after a relative who has a chronic condition, that is a cost and when that happens, our social burden goes up because we have to make sure that social safety programmes that are available to the ministry of community and social development are topped up to ensure that you provide support.”

She acknowledged, however, that each individual is still responsible in managing their own health.

“It is obvious to us that everybody has a responsibility to police their own health,” she said. “We will try as hard as we can through the process of consultation to get people to understand the dangers of it.”