a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA AND THE PEOPLE OF JAMAICA

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The Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control is becoming increasingly concerned about the decision to expand the production of tobacco growing in Jamaica which is in direct contravention of the World Health Organization (WHO) Treaty - The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which the Government of Jamaica signed on September 24, 2003 and ratified on July 7, 2005. In 2003, the WHO established this first ever public health treaty in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The WHO reports that tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills more than five million people a year – an average of one person every six seconds – and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease. Based on current mortality due to tobacco smoking, evidence is that 75% of the mortality from smoking will be in developing countries, and in Jamaica, with a larger percentage of hypertension and diabetes, the evidence is that these diseases will increase mortality to a considerable degree.

The signatories of the FCTC are legally bound by the treaty’s provisions. The treaty has articles which address issues related to tobacco control such as protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, non price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, packaging and labeling of tobacco products, regulation of the contents of tobacco products, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the provision of support for economically viable alternative activities and guidelines on interactions with the tobacco industry.

In addition to the expansion of tobacco production, the Government is also in breach of the treaty obligations as it relates to the passing of tobacco control legislation. This legislation had been promised on many occasions and it is yet to become a reality. One of the provisions of this legislation is the banning of smoking in public places in order to protect the health of the population from the effects of second hand tobacco smoke. This legislation has already been enacted in many countries of the world including Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

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