06 Sep 2011
Five questions with Barbara McGaw
1. Do you see the global campaign on tobacco control for health and development/ the NCD Summit as an extension of tobacco control or is it a separate issue?
The global campaign on NCDs complements tobacco control (TC) campaigns. Since tobacco use is a cross-cutting risk factor for the four main groups of NCDs, the issues are inextricably linked.
2. What are the biggest challenges facing your tobacco control work and the JCTC in Jamaica?
The biggest tobacco control (TC) challenge Jamaica faces is the lack of political will and apathy regarding FCTC implementation.
A draft tobacco bill has been around since 2005 but no bill has been laid in Parliament – despite constant advocacy from several key groups and many promises from the Ministry of Health (MOH).
This lack of action has serious implications for the health of Jamaica’s citizens.
The constant presence of the tobacco industry is the second biggest challenge. The industry constantly undermines the efforts of TC advocates in Jamaica and the region – using the lack of tobacco legislation as a tool to ply their terrible trade and to get more people addicted to tobacco.
Fortunately, the Government has come under increasing pressure to enact legislation locally, regionally and internationally. For example, in the last three years, Barbados and Trinidad have made strides by passing tobacco laws, and Guyana has completed a comprehensive draft tobacco law that will soon be submitted to its Parliament.
Also, the CARICOM states (Caribbean community) were seen as leaders in the decision to push for the UN High-level Meeting on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and it is an embarrassment to see that Jamaica has still not implemented tobacco control legislation.
3. How is the JCTC combating these challenges?
The JCTC has received a new two- year grant from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), [http://www.theunion.org/index.php ] so it can support government and civil society actions to ensure speedy passage of a Tobacco Bill, and enact and monitor comprehensive tobacco control legislation in line with the FCTC.
JCTC strategies to do this are:
• Provide technical assistance to the MOH to develop and implement comprehensive TC legislation;
• Work across Government ministries and other agencies to build awareness about the need for comprehensive TC legislation beyond the health sector;
• Sensitise parliamentarians to the benefits of comprehensive TC legislation in fulfilment of FCTC obligations and guidelines;
• Broaden civil society support for comprehensive TC legislation and the general JCTC goals.
The tobacco companies need to be stopped, and the best way to do this is by enacting legislation.
The network of support from civil society, the media and other key stakeholders will be a very important tool to pressure the government to pass tobacco legislation.
Already we have met with key groups to increase TC awareness and garner support to pressure the government to pass tobacco laws.
4. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing FCA and tobacco control in general?
Slow FCTC implementation in countries and no sanctions for implementing the treaty in a timely manner are the biggest challenges for the FCA.
According to the statistics, 87.4 per cent of the world’s population is covered by the FCTC; however, only 5 per cent of people are protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
We have to do more to close this gap.
5. How long have you worked in TC?
Three years – prior to that I worked in the HIV/AIDS field.
In 2008, I began working for the JCTC by facilitating the preparation and implementation of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
Although funding has ceased for this project, it was the catalyst for TC in general in the region.
I’m now working on another project to facilitate the speedy passage, enactment and monitoring of comprehensive TC legislation in Jamaica, which is aligned with the FCTC.
This project started in July 2011 and will run for two years.