Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has tabled in Parliament the Tobacco Control Bill, the acceptance into law of which is to help address the epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) affecting Jamaica.
NCDs – including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes – are caused by four major behavioural risk factors, including tobacco use, which is also the most preventable. The others are physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
The new bill also puts the island 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 Regulations, 2013.
In August 2014, the WHO FCTC Convention Secretariat, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation 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 involving 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, were done.
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 in the implementation of the FCTC, which resulted in the current Public Health 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 under the Bill which, 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 practice,” noted Minister Tufton, who tabled the Bill on Tuesday (December 1).
“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 5 million deaths worldwide are the result of direct tobacco use and more than 600,000 the result of 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,” the Minister said.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey reveals for example, that for Jamaica in 2017, some 15.6% of students (15.9% of boys, and 15% of girls) used tobacco products. In addition:
- 14.4% of students (14.4% of boys, and 13.9% of girls) smoked tobacco;
- 11.2% of students (11.1% of boys, and 10.9% of girls) smoked cigarettes; and
- 2.6% of students (2.8% of boys, and 2.5% of girls) used smokeless tobacco.
This data comes against the background of some 70 per cent Jamaicans having an NCD – with one in eight having diabetes and one in three having hypertension.