Jan 11, 2014 News
With the view of safeguarding the population from the effects of tobacco smoke, the Ministry of Health is directing much technical support towards the crafting of a draft Tobacco Control Legislation. The move comes even as the local health sector is desperately working to tackle the incidence of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which, among other things, is linked to the use of tobacco.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, is expected to play a major role in the preparation of the draft Bill which would entail him providing the needful technical details ahead of it being taken to Cabinet by Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran.
Once approved by Cabinet the draft legislation will then be tabled in Parliament. If passed, the legislation will in fact govern the way the substance is used in order to ensure that the vast population is not affected.
And according to Dr. Persaud during an interview with this publication, “we hope actually that the Tobacco Legislation will be treated like the Termination of Pregnancy Act where parties will relieve their members to vote on their own conscience on this Bill.”
The CMO was also firm in his deduction that the Bill, once enacted into law, will be one that addresses a life and death situation. He pointed out that the use of tobacco has seen the Ministry on a daily basis signing off on the deaths of both young men and women “whose lives were probably snuffed out untimely because of the unnecessary risk.”
According to Dr. Persaud while it is crucial that all of the factors, such as: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the use of alcohol that can lend to NCDs be closely addressed, smoking is however a rather major challenge to deal with.
“It might appear that there are not many (people) smoking but when you look at the statistics a little bit more carefully you will find that in Georgetown the rate is about 16 per cent of all adult men and maybe about four per cent of all adult women,” Dr. Persaud observed during an earlier interview.
The smoking situation in rural communities, he said, reflects an even higher percentage of persons indulging in smoking activities. He disclosed that at least 47 per cent of men in rural areas are smokers while close to 17 per cent of the female population have adopted this habit too.
And according to Dr. Persaud, “if you go further afield into our mining areas up to 70 per cent of men in Region Eight smoke, where lots of our miners are, and about 48 per cent of women in Region Seven are smoking.” The CMO pointed out that research shows that the younger persons are when they indulge in the habit of smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted to the substance. Moreover, they are more likely to develop at least one chronic NCD ranging from heart disease and cancer, to stroke and diabetes.
In alluding to the “powerful” nature of the tobacco industry, Dr. Persaud highlighted that “they are finding all subtle ways of reaching their target audience…they are a ‘for profit’ industry and the more cigarettes they sell the better their business is.”
However, the CMO emphasised that Ministries of Health across the world, like the local Health Ministry, are vigorously working to implement measures to avoid members of their populations being exposed to harmful tobacco smoke.
Persons can be exposed to the dire effects of tobacco smoke either by their own use of the substance or through second hand or third hand smoke in the environment. Second hand smoke speaks to persons inhaling the smoke exhaled by smokers while third hand smoke is the exhaled tobacco smoke left embedded in fabric or other materials used by non-smokers. “People might smoke their cigarettes and then leave an area but the smoke they leave behind is just as damaging since it can enter somebody else’s body and can, over time, cause problems for the non-smokers too,” Dr. Persaud explained.
Currently the proposed Tobacco Control legislation, which is in its final stage of consultation, is among a number of other proposed legislations gaining the attention of the Ministry of Health’s Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Joseph Hamilton, according to the CMO.
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