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Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Jamaica tobacco deal may affect us

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First published trinidadexpress.com - By Aabida Allaham Mar 5, 2011 here

WITH Jamaica in talks to commence tobacco production and cigar manufacturing by the end of the year, project officer at the Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Tobacco Control Project Rosemarie Gajar, believes the move can have serious implications for this country.

As such, she is calling on the Government to accelerate efforts to have the remaining clauses of the Tobacco Control Act put into effect.

In an interview last week, Gajar said the gravest concern is for public health.

"We certainly do not want any more tobacco products entering, being produced or promoted in our country," she said.

But the effect of the deal, she added, goes beyond product placement and promotion as Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has already accepted US$31,481.77 from tobacco company Carreras to repair a fleet of police vehicles.

"If nothing is done about this, he stands to embarrass the region at the upcoming United Nation Special Summit in September on Non Communicable Diseases, which was initiated by Caricom and at which tobacco use will be addressed as a major risk factor in many leading causes of death."

"That Golding is the current Chairman of Caricom only deepens the shame," she said.

Carreras is owned by British American Tobacco (BAT), as is the West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) in Trinidad.

That link, Gajar said, is enough to see the same thing happening here if Government does not put its foot down.

"We have realised the danger of tobacco use and while Trinidad and Tobago can be proud of having legislation, much more needs to be done".

"And right now, the Government can help by pressing for the adoption of the Draft Caricom Regional Standard on the Labelling of Retail Packages of Tobacco Products as studies have shown how effective bold labelling is in alerting and informing members of the public about the health harms of smoking, particularly for young people and persons who wish to quit smoking," she said.

At yesterday's formal opening of the new Pan American Health Organisation office at Sweet Briar Place, St Clair, Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, however, said Jamaica is a sovereign state and they have the right to do what they think is best.

"Would Trinidad and Tobago do such? I do not think so".

"But for me to attack the fact that Jamaica has decided that is the trade methodology they want to go by in order to earn revenue, it would be remiss of me to attack their methodology," she said.

With regards to implementing the other parts of the Tobacco Act, Baptiste-Cornelis said it still has to be "tweaked".

"The law, as we put it in, has a lot of voluntary decisions and while a lot of the smaller shops have (complied)...the big supermarkets are not following suit and they are trying to stick it to the Government, which is not really a smart idea, but because of that we are looking at what we need to do is enforce (the law that is there now), she said.

PAHO director, Dr Mirta Roses-Periago, who was unaware of Jamaica's decision, said it is a problem, as the country is in direct contravention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Treaty — The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which it signed on September 24, 2003 and ratified on July 7, 2005.

"There are many options to boost an economy...and I think this is not the best option at all.

"And I am sure this will generate a lot of debate if this is the decision in Jamaica and you can be sure this will not be the last word on this matter," she said.

In an article carried by the Jamaica Observer last month, it said major stakeholders in the tobacco trade in Jamaica including the Ministry of Agriculture led by Minister Christopher Tufton, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Carreras and local farmers are investigating the capacity of the local industry and working on initial plans regarding methods by which the farmers can capitalise on the large export market for their products.

In the same article, Richard Pandohie, managing director of Carreras, reportedly said the move is being made to help manage the growing trade in the potent leaf products. Read the original article here www.trinidadexpress.com/news/_Jamaica_tobacco_deal_may_affect_us_-117473448.html

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