Aggressive awareness campaign for Tobacco Control Act

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Despite signing a ‘commencement order’ to bring into force the Tobacco Control Act, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has clarified that the enforcement of the no smoking laws will not be implemented just yet.

A statement from the Ministry released on Wednesday evening explained that the Government will be rolling out a phased implementation of the Tobacco Control Act, with a heavy focus being placed on the industry’s compliance with the new laws.

According to the statement from the Ministry, officials will meet with players in the tobacco industry next month to inform them of the implementation of the complete ban on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products.

“Once regulations for tobacco products’ packaging and labelling are passed, the tobacco industry will have nine months to comply with the regulations. The Ministry will inform the public as implementation of the various aspects of the law take effect,” the Ministry explained.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, however, has signed a ‘commencement date’ for the Tobacco Control Act retroactive to December 11, 2017. This means that the stated date is when the Act comes into operation. Unsuccessful efforts were made by the News Room on Wednesday for an interview with Minister Lawrence or her junior Dr Karen Cummings seeking clarifications and explanations of what the commencement order means for the public.

An official statement was subsequently released by the Ministry following the publication of a related article by the News Room.

The Ministry said the enforcement of no smoking laws in places where smoking is prohibited will not be implemented until the publication of ‘no-smoking’ signs, regulations and sensitization with business community so that they understand their role with regard to compliance.

Additionally, the Ministry said it will launch its education and awareness campaign until next year.

“The Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has already started training implementing agencies in regard to the implementation of the Act. The Ministry of Public Health staff are being trained to take the sensitization to the business community including vendors, and the public at large,” the Ministry explained.

The Ministry said, the nation will see the rollout of an aggressive education and awareness campaign, and by late 2018, tobacco product packages will bear graphic health warnings which inform consumers about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.”

The Tobacco Control Act provides for a ban on smoking in indoor public places, indoor workplaces and public transportation, and in specified outdoor places including the premises of schools and health facilities, and places for the commercial service of food and drinks. The Tobacco Control Act regulates where persons can smoke tobacco products in order to protect others from exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke.

The Act provides also for a maximum fine of $10,000 for a person who smokes in a place where smoking is prohibited. Where the person commits the offense a subsequent time, the maximum fine is $20,000.

The Ministry explained that tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, along with the harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition, are the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Guyana.

The implementation of tobacco control measures will significantly reduce the number of lives affected by death, disease, and disability caused by the tobacco epidemic, the Ministry noted.

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