Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton has noted Jamaica’s renewed commitment to tobacco control, as more young people fall prey to the drug and the world faces a ballooning non-communicable (NCDs) disease crisis.
“The challenges to human and environmental health that tobacco presents are well documented and significant. This is the case globally and certainly as we consider the Jamaica situation,” noted Dr. Tufton, speaking on September 19 at a high-level Tobacco Free Finance Pledge side event, held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“Annually more than 8 million people lose their lives to tobacco use. In Jamaica, as elsewhere in the world, we have a NCDs epidemic, fuelled in part by tobacco use. More than 70% of deaths in Jamaica annually are linked to NCDs,” the Minister added.
This data, he noted, is in addition to what is known of the implications for the planet.
“The annual cost of tobacco use, the WHO tells us, includes 600 million trees; 200,000 hectares of land; 22 billion tonnes of water; and 84 million tonnes of CO2,” the Minister revealed.
It is against this background, he noted, that Jamaica is determined to do all it can to get a firm handle on tobacco control, including addressing the high prevalence of tobacco use among local youth, including e-cigarette use and vaping.
- In 2017, approximately one in seven (14.9%) children aged 13-17 years reported smoking cigarettes.
- In 2017, approximately two-thirds (67.4%) of children aged 13-17 years reported that persons smoke in their presence on one or more days within the past week.
- Also in 2017, 11.7% of students (13.7% of boys and 9.7% of girls) reported using e-cigarettes while 32.1% were exposed to tobacco smoke at home and 48.2%, were inside enclosed public places.
“These statistics are a clarion call to comprehensive, sustained, and collaborative actions,” the Minister said.
In Jamaica, he said those actions include progressing legislation to adequately regulate the tobacco industry.
“In 2020, I tabled the “Tobacco Control Act, 2020” in Parliament and it is currently being considered by a Joint Select Committee, which I chair. The passage of the Bill will allow Jamaica to be fully compliant with its treaty obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It will also protect Jamaicans, including children and the vulnerable from the harmful and addictive effects of tobacco use,” the Minister explained.
Among other things, the Bill includes provisions for the regulation of the interactions of Government officials with the tobacco industry, to ensure that Government bodies interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent, strictly necessary, to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.
It also requires testing and measurement of the contents and emissions of tobacco products and provisions for the disclosure of toxic substances to the public; and speaks to the promotion of communication and public awareness of tobacco control issues and about the health risks of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
These efforts, Dr. Tufton said, build on the collaboration and support from entities including the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization FCTC Secretariat together with having National Focal Points, a multi-sectoral Tobacco Technical Working Group coordinating mechanism, and strong civil society support.
“Of course, there continues to be persistent direct and indirect interference by the tobacco industry as documented by the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control. However, we are not daunted,” the Minister said.
“We have a big job on our hands to preserve human health and the health of the environment from tobacco. I am confident that working together, we can get it done, including through the continued engagement and partnership of players from the finance sector in support of the transition to a net zero world where tobacco has no place,” he added.