The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Jamaica seeks allies against Big Tobacco

Jamaica’s health minister is calling on supporters at every level to back the country’s upcoming tobacco control legislation.

“When it takes place, I will be calling upon PAHO (the Pan American Health Organization) and other institutions for support because we are up against a very powerful industry and it is going to require allies, local and international, in going forward,” said Dr. Fenton Ferguson on June 14.

The minister said he is pushing ahead with the project, expected to start with smoke-free legislation, despite the economic clout wielded by the industry: “When we come to recognise that it is costing the country some US$170 million annually to deal with (non-communicable diseases*) it is very clear in my mind that we have a responsibility,” he stated.

Carreras, local subsidiary for British American Tobacco (BAT) has responded to rumours that tobacco control legislation will finally be introduced by redoubling its marketing. For example, it objected to the theme of the recent World No Tobacco Day: ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, claiming it would “prevent adult tobacco consumers from receiving information in order to make an informed choice about their tobacco products and brands”.

FCA members, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, pointed out in a press release the growing evidence that the industry markets its deadly products to children: “Results from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2010) indicated that among students in Grades 7,8,9,10 in Jamaica:

  •  59.8 percent saw pro-cigarette ads on billboards, in the past 30 days;
  •  54 percent saw pro-cigarette ads in newspapers or magazines, in the past 30 days;
  •  14.7 percent have an object with a cigarette brand logo;
  •  9.8 percent were offered free cigarettes by a tobacco company representative.”

Earlier this month Carreras erected a new billboard 0.7km from Jose Marti High School advertising a new menthol cigarette. Flavoured cigarettes are designed to mask the harsh taste of tobacco and make it more palatable to certain population segments, including young people.

Jamaica ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. A tobacco bill was drafted the same year but has yet to be introduced in Parliament.

Suriname, Barbados and Trinidad have passed tobacco laws in the past three years, and Guyana has completed a comprehensive draft law that will soon be submitted to its Parliament. In December 2012, the Caribbean Community adopted the Regional Standard for the Labelling of Retail Packages of Tobacco Products.

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* Tobacco use is the main risk factor for the four main groups of NCDs, which kill more than 36 million people each year. Nearly 80 percent of the victims are in low- and middle-income countries.

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