Aug 17, 2017 News
-alerts Minister of Public Health, prepared to lend assistance
Moves may be afoot to dissuade President David Granger from signing into law the Tobacco
This purported development was yesterday confirmed by Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation [PAHO/WHO] Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow.
Dr. Adu-Krow revealed that he is in receipt of an email from the PAHO/WHO Washington D. C. headquarters, which states that the tobacco industry has put in place plans to try to influence President Granger from assenting to the recently passed Bill.
“I wrote back to them and I said I don’t think so…” said Dr. Adu-Krow.
However, the PAHO/WHO Representative said that he has since forwarded the email to the Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence. He added too that “I am actually prepared to meet with Minister…and discuss it further with her because I know she is also very passionate about it [the Tobacco Control Bill].”
“If anything she [Minister Lawrence] can take it up with His Excellency [President Granger] on our behalf, but I am prepared to make an appointment to speak with His Excellency as well,” said Dr. Adu-Krow.
Minister Lawrence, this publication understands, was up to yesterday on work detail in Geneva, Switzerland and is expected back today.
Even as he addressed the possibility of plans being in motion to hinder the enactment of a tobacco control law, Dr. Adu-Krow acknowledged that the tactic that is always embraced by the tobacco industry is to indulge in delay tactics. “If they can delay the Bill becoming law for one day, they would do it. Even if they know that it will become law the very next day, they would try to delay it. They are very good at the delay tactic,” emphasised the PAHO/WHO Representative.
“The tobacco company knows if they collapse here, there will be a cascading effect, so they don’t want that. They want to make sure it doesn’t happen and they know there is no law once it is not enacted and it is only the president who can sign it into a law.”
There have been some concerns that tobacco companies have overtime been instrumental in considerably delaying the passage of tobacco control legislations globally. Here in Guyana the passage of the Bill was pushed by three Health Ministers, under two regimes, before it was finally successfully piloted by Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence last month.
Dr. Adu-Krow is convinced that this is the right time for the Bill to take its rightful place as a law. “The Bill may never have seen the light of day [before] for one reason or the other. For me if a Bill such as this, that has both sides of the aisle supporting it in principle, and it has taken so many governments and so many Ministers [before it is passed] then you know that it is a Bill that draws controversy, but it doesn’t have to because the data is there,” asserted Dr. Adu-Krow.
He passionately emphasised that there is no other legal product that is well promoted despite of its known fatal outcome. “There is no other example [other than tobacco use] in the world. Who can say I can entice you to use my product but I can assure you in 10 to 20 years I will kill half of you so as a result I need more people to start using my product? There is no other example; there is none!” exclaimed Dr. Ad-Krow.
The Tobacco Control Bill was passed in the National Assembly on July 27 last. Although the passage of the Bill had enough support to allow its passage, with some changes, there were some, even on the Government’s side, who abstained.
Taking this into consideration, Dr. Adu-Krow noted that “Even people who actually helped with the drafting of the Bill and said that they supported it, when it came to voting, they chose to not vote.”
While it is expected that there will be some delays to allow for the changes made ahead of the Bill’s passage, Dr. Adu-Krow noted that a prolonged delay will be cause for concern. “If there is a delay we will have to find out where the delay is, or if they want we can get someone to come and assist. But they [government] have done this for a long time, so I don’t think they will need that help but we are still prepared to bring somebody to come and help,” said Dr. Adu-Krow as he amplified PAHO/WHO’s support for the Bill from its inception to date.
The PAHO/WHO Representative however noted, if the delay occurs after the Bill is sitting on the desk of the President, “then probably we have to do more advocacy. I don’t think, and I don’t want to pre-empt what His Excellency thinks, but I think he will be for it, otherwise government would not have tabled it in Parliament three times and voted on it.”
According to Dr. Adu-Krow, having embraced the stance that “tobacco kills and because tobacco kills half of its own users and that is why they [the tobacco industry] have to get new people all the time to start smoking,” PAHO/WHO is not prepared to see the gains made be lost. As such he intimated that “We will probably wait for about one month then begin to track where it [the Bill] is. If it means we have to make appointments with the Minister of Public Health, the Attorney General or His Excellency finally, we will because we owe it to the people that we serve.”
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