Passage of the Tobacco Control Bill will fight the tobacco epidemic-Minister Lawrence

DPI, GUYANA, Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Public Health Minister addressing the House on the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill, prefaced her presentation by stating that the health and wellbeing of the nation is the government’s key priority and that a failure to pass the legislation is a deterrent to fully achieving this goal and meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Three.

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.

The SDG Three speaks to ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages, is essential to sustainable development.

Minister Lawrence told the House that the passage of the legislation will not only improve the wellbeing of the nation, but it would significantly reduce the huge sums of monies that is spent by the government in fighting Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the majority of which are being caused by the tobacco epidemic.

“This Bill introduced evidence based measures that are meant to save lives and to ensure that we have a healthy labour force and that productivity is at its highest and no family has to lose a member from a preventative illness,” the Minister said.

The Bill does not proport to ban the sale of tobacco products, except in certain specific public places and this is contrary to what is being peddled. There will be no fall off in sales from the passage of the Bill, the Minister said.

The man on the street with his tray of cigarette will not be affected by the passage of the legislation, the Minister explained. She noted that “the Bill is not intended to punish smokers”, just to secure the health of the public who will be exposed to second hand smoke. The government is also working to support strategies that give smokers the kind of support needed to overcome their addiction.

The Bill which originated under the previous administration, in 2011 has benefitted from several rounds of consultations the Minister said. She said failure to pass the legislation would “haunt the House.”

The Tobacco Control Bill seeks to protect the present and future generations from the devastating harms of tobacco use and exposure by introducing control regulations for the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of the product in Guyana.

The government Bill was initially tabled in Parliament by Minister Lawrence.

The Bill makes it mandatory to affix health warning on tobacco product packaging, bans the sale of cigarettes to minors (under the age of 18,) and smoking in all indoor public places, indoor workplaces, public transport, and in certain, specified outdoor public places in order to protect the public from exposure to second-hand smoke.

It strictly regulates tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion. It establishes a National Tobacco Control Council that will advise the Minister of Public Health on matters related to tobacco control and the administration and enforcement.

It empowers the Minister of Public Health with responsibility for administration of the Act and sets out the enforcement power of authorised officers. Specifically, it allows authorised officers to carry out inspections, investigations or enforcements for the purpose of the Act and for Customs Officers or Police to exercise their legal power and seize and detain any article reasonably believed not to be compliant with the Act.

Tobacco kills more than seven million people each year. More than six million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. According to the WHO, nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco kills up to half of its users.

 

By: Macalia Santos

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