No smoking at sports facilities, government urges

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Sports communities across Guyana are called on to join the fight against the usage of tobacco products and the global “No-Smoking” campaign, with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) calling for a 30% reduction in smoking by 2025.

Statistics emerging from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) indicate that there are 148,000 smokers in Guyana, 33,000 between the ages of 13-15 years.

This urgent call from the Ministry of the Presidency, Department of Social Cohesion, Culture, Youth and Sport (MoTP, DoSCCYS) occurs in collaboration with the National Tobacco Council’s (NTC) implementation of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA), 2017, accordingly passed in the National Assembly of Guyana in July 2017, receiving the assent of His Excellency President David Granger in August, 2017.

The Act mandates the Minister of Public Health to establish a National Tobacco Council, so declared on May 10th, 2019.

Functionally, the Council, composed of ten members appointed for a period of three years (with eligibility for re-appointment), shall advise the Minister on matters related to tobacco control and the administration and enforcement of the Act.

Herein, the general and sports public should know specifically that:

(1) No person shall smoke in the following places – (a) in any part of an indoor workplace; (b) in any part of any indoor public place; (c) in or on any means of public transport, whether or not it is carrying a member of the public; (in or on any means of transport at the time of transporting a minor).

(2) No person shall smoke in the following outdoor places – (a) any area within 5 metres from a window of, ventilation inlet of, or doorway to any indoor public place or indoor workplace; (b) anywhere on the premises of and within 5 metres from the outside boundaries of any health care, education or child care facility; (c) any waiting area or queue in a public place, including but not limited to any public transport stop, bus stand or bus park; (d) any park, playground or amusement park; (e) any stadium, arena or other kind of sport or performance space; (f) any gazette site of historic or national significance; (g) any space for the commercial service of food or drink; or (h) any other outdoor place prescribed by regulations.

(3) Any person who smokes in any place where smoking is prohibited commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars for the first offence, and twenty thousand dollars for any second or subsequent offence.

Guyana’s comprehensive legislation is being implemented, with the enforcement of labelling requirements, including the visibility of general health warnings on packaging highlighting hazards, dangers of second hand smoke, tar and carbon monoxide (smoke from this product contains extremely addictive nicotine and toxic substances; no safe level of consumption exists for this product).

The penalty for violation in relation to packaging is outlined in Pt. VII – 14A., whereby “A natural person who contravenes any of the provisions of regulations 4-12 (inclusive) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for three months, and in the case of a body corporate to a fine of nine million dollars.”

With health still being a major priority in Guyana, and for athletes, the Department remains committed to the effective enforcement of the law, and reiterates the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke, noting with emphasis the following harmful effects:

Cataracts – clouding eye’s lenses, reduced vision, sensitivity to light and muted colors.

Weakening of immune system – damaging and removing anti-bodies.

Increased visible signs of aging – reduced blood flow to the skin, premature wrinkles.

Infertility in males (dramatically lowered sperm count, erectile dysfunction) and females (conception and ovulation problems, damage to eggs and the reproductive organs themselves).

Weakened bones – increased risk of osteoporosis, injuries, fractures.

Gum disease – offensive breath and tooth lose.

Thickened blood – forcing the heart to work harder pumping blood through body, increasing chances of heart attack and stroke.

Destruction of lung tissue – increased mucus production resulting in air-way clogs, difficulty breathing, aging the lungs, demolished defense mechanism, extremely dirty, clogged lungs.

Cancer cell growth – the poison in tobacco smoke can alter the DNA of blood cells resulting in a cancerous cell which grow and spread without the defense to stop them, causing cancer in the body including throat, liver and lungs.

Increased risk of stroke and heart disease (1 in 3 deaths) – narrowed blood vessels, lowered good cholesterol in blood, raised triglycerides and increased build-up of plaque in blood vessels.

Smoking also damages the sense of taste, makes hair smell unpleasant and stains finger nails.

With incidents at Cricket, where six persons were extracted from the Guyana National Stadium (GNS) at Providence during the 2019 Caribbean Premier League T20, the Department remains cognizant of the importance of public awareness. Citizens, and visitors, are implored not to disregard posted signage.

Officers, including public security agents, shall be adhering to the law, and sanctions and penalties will be enforced, as mandated by the TCA.

The clean, cheat-free athlete, national sportsmen and sportswomen, coaches, trainers, sponsors, spectators and supporters are partners in this national effort.

Herein, deterrent signage and advisories shall be posted at all national sports facilities – Cliff Anderson Sports Hall (CASH); Colgrain Swimming Pool (CSP); Guyana National Stadium (GNS); National Aquatic Center (NAC); National Gymnasium (NG); National Track and Field Center (NTFC); National Racquet and Resource Center (NRRC). (A Ministry of Social Cohesion Press Release)

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