a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Banning smoking in public places

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June 2, 2011 - Jamaica Gleaner Online

THE EDITOR, Sir:

ACCORDING TO The World Health Organization (WHO), the harmful effects of tobacco smoking currently cause 5.4 million deaths each year. Notwithstanding, the WHO and those who advocate for smoking bans internationally are met with much resistance from some local governments, smokers, tobacco growers and the big players in the tobacco industry.

Those opposed to implementing general smoking bans premise their arguments on the individual's right to smoke if he/she so chooses, the resultant economic loss both to the industry and its employees, and loss of business opportunities to restaurants and nightclubs etc. The arguments advanced in support of smoking bans cite several risk factors that are increased by tobacco smoking such as cancers of the lung, skin, bladder, and throat; respiratory diseases; heart disease; infertility; impotence; and yellow teeth. The Centre for Disease Control in the United States, has reported that tobacco use causes more deaths in the United States each year, than by "all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor-vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined".

Medical evidence, however, has not been sufficient to see the passage of legislation banning smoking in public places in Jamaica, even in the face of data from the Heart Foundation that heart disease is the leading cause of deaths among Jamaicans vis-à-vis road fatalities, other illnesses and crime. Our legislators continue to do a great disservice to our people by refusing to adopt the necessary measures to ban smoking in public places, thereby reducing the harmful effects of smoking, and protect non-smokers from the same risks caused by second-hand smoking. Jamaica is a signatory to several WHO treaties geared at public health and tobacco control, but lags behind our Caribbean neighbours Cuba, Trinidad and Barbados to effectively implement legislation to safeguard public health against the harmful effects of tobacco smoking. Several European nations, India, Bangladesh, more than 25 States in America, and other nations, have all banned smoking in enclosed public spaces. Growing health concerns have also led to some of these nations banning smoking in some public spaces, with cities such as New York banning smoking in parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas like Times Square, effective May 23, 2011.

In nation's best interest

t is time Jamaica follow suit, not because other nations have done so, but simply because it is in our nation's best interest to do so. The individual and public health benefits far outweigh any fears of resultant losses and should not be ignored. World No Tobacco Day is observed each year on May 31, and it is quite fitting and commendable that the organisers of YUSH promoted a highly successful smoke-free party at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday, May 28. They signalled that we do not have to wait on our legislators to ban indoor smoking, but rather, we can start the public ban ourselves and their efforts ought to be lauded. In time, it is hoped that other promoters, clubs and restaurateurs will do the same whilst our legislators lag behind in what must be a tobacco protectionist mode.

I am, etc.,

Alando N. Terrelonge

Attorney-at-law

First published http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110602/letters/letters5.html