Serious steps will be taken to prosecute individuals and businesses that do not adhere to the laws related to the Tobacco Control Bill which sets out tough fines for violators.
Health Minister Volda Lawrence has announced that the Government is currently fine-tuning the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the establishment of a Tobacco Council in Guyana.
The Minister said the document is still being crafted but is expected to be presented to Cabinet for approval before the end of this year. The Council could be established as soon as January 2019.
Lawrence confirmed that no one has been charged since the bill became law in July 2017. However, the Ministry has started a campaign aimed at educating persons on the legislation.
Once the Ministry’s public awareness campaign comes to an end, a timeframe will be set in which to begin to institute penalties for the legislation through the Council.
The Bill provides for the adoption and implementation of tobacco-control policies in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The legislation serves as the legal regulator for administration, inspection and enforcement, while providing legislative protection from exposure to second-hand smoke by eliminating public smoking.
The new law bans smoking at all indoor workplaces and certain outdoor places, such as in any waiting area or queue in a public place, including but not limited to, any public transport stop, bus stand or bus park. It also clampdowns on advertising campaigns launched by any tobacco company.
Penalties in the form of fines and prison sentences for certain transgressions are also included.
These range from a fine of $200,000 for persons who breach the new regulations, along with six months imprisonment, to fines for business entities of up to $9 million.
Former Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy under whose leadership the first draft of this Bill was created has said that tobacco is the world’s greatest extra-judicial killer. The United Nations (UN) has agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a better world by 2030.
With the SDGs, there is specific recognition of the importance of the NCDs, Dr Ramsammy said, while noting that there is also recognition that tobacco is a killer and globally, there is need for collective action to reduce and eliminate the negative impacts of tobacco.
“Now that the SDG has embraced the goals of the FCTC, it is time we are more robust in our action to stop big tobacco. In this regards, we must strictly enforce our agreements in the FCTC to increase taxes on tobacco. Research has shown clearly that increased taxes do reduce tobacco use,” he added.
Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow has said 80 per cent of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low or middle-income countries, like Guyana, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals.
Dr Adu-Krow said in 2017, 15.4 per cent of the adult population were smokers of tobacco, with 26.6 per cent of the total smokers being men and 3.3 per cent being women in Guyana.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey that was conducted here in 2015 among youths between the ages of 13 and 15 found that 14.8 per cent of students – 19 per cent boys and 10.4 per cent of girls – are users of tobacco products.
Dr Adu-Krow has also stated that tobacco use is a threat to individuals, regardless of their gender, age and ethnicity and even their cultural or educational background.
One in 10 deaths around the world is caused by smoking, according to a major new study that shows the tobacco epidemic is far from over and the threat to lives is spreading across the globe.
There were nearly one billion smokers in 2015, in spite of tobacco control policies having been adopted by many countries. That number is expected to rise as the world’s population expands.
One in every four men is a smoker and one in 20 women. Their lives are likely to be cut short – smoking is the second biggest risk factor for early death and disability after high blood pressure.
Tobacco is responsible for seven million deaths per year worldwide. This includes 900,000 persons who die from diseases related to exposure to tobacco smoke. If current trends continue, tobacco use will kill 10 million people per year by 2020.