Sep 02, 2017 News
-intense awareness campaign to commence ahead of implementation
Amidst much controversy, some of which relates to its fines and penalties, the Tobacco Control
Bill has been signed into law. This publication has been reliably informed that President David Granger decided to assent to the Bill last week.
However, according to Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, Mr. Terrence Esseboom, this does not mean that the legislation will be immediately implemented.
He explained that during the next nine to 12 months, the Ministry will carry out intense public awareness campaigns which will serve to educate members of the public about the new law. “We will be meeting with officials of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, restaurant and hotel owners, those within government entities, among others, before any move is made to implement this law. So it is not like anything is happening next week,” said Esseboom of the implementation of the legislation.
The Ministry’s awareness campaign, he said, will be tied into its Non Communicable Diseases and Maternal and Child Health programmes, even as there will be renewed focus on mental health, where persons who are desirous of quitting smoking can do so through a tobacco cessation initiative.
The President’s decision to assent to the Bill comes on the heels of reports that deliberate moves were afoot to have the passage of the Bill delayed or possibly even thwarted altogether. Such information had in fact reached the Washington D. C. headquarters of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation [PAHO/WHO] which has long been advocating for Guyana to pass a Tobacco Control Bill, since it subscribes to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC].
The FCTC is a treaty adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland on May 21, 2003, and came into force on February 27, 2005.
Signed by 168 countries and legally binding in 180 ratifying countries, the FCTC is designed to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by enacting a set of universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms.
According to local PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, he was in receipt of an email from the PAHO/WHO headquarters about the purported plan by the tobacco industry to impede the enactment of the Bill by dissuading President Granger from signing it.
Dr. Adu-Krow, in commenting on the state of affairs last month said, “I wrote back to them and I said I don’t think so…”, of the plan to impede the enactment of the Bill.
But the PAHO/WHO Representative said that he had forwarded the email to Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, and had even added “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,” Dr. Adu-Krow had related.
But the Demerara Tobacco Company [DEMTOCO], a national importer and distributor of cigarettes, in a blistering statement denied that there was any such tactic being mobilised by the tobacco industry.
The company in its statement said that it not only rejected the assertion that the tobacco industry was seeking to deter President Granger from assenting to the Bill, but outrightly denied that it was involved in steering any delay tactic. The company however admitted that it was concerned with specific clauses of the Bill which it said are harsh, and contain significant discriminatory measures that would negatively impact ordinary Guyanese.
According to Dr. Adu-Krow, who has been very vocal about the need for Tobacco Control legislation, while it is the view of PAHO/WHO, that “you should not go to bed with your enemy, it also respects the fact that the level of consultations countries embrace is at the discretion of individual countries.”
Dr. Adu-Krow had told this publication that while it was expected that as much as a month could have elapsed before the Bill was assented to, it would have however been cause for concern if it was further delayed.
“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,” Dr. Adu-Krow had asserted.
According to the PAHO/WHO Representative, too, the onus is, and will remain, on the government to protect its people, especially when the impact of tobacco use is taken into consideration.
Tobacco use has been closely linked to the ever-prevailing chronic non communicable diseases which accounts for 68 percent of the countries’ mortality and morbidity rate. In fact Dr. Adu-Krow has on multiple occasions amplified that tobacco is perhaps the single product that kills at least half of its users, once used how the manufacturers intended.
The passage of the Bill in the National Assembly on July 27 was piloted by Minister Lawrence, a feat that three Health Ministers before her had attempted but failed to accomplish.
The enactment of the Tobacco Control legislation will see efforts being made to implement measures to reduce tobacco use, the introduction of picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, the imposition of 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and public places, and bans on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
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