WNTD 2012: Global Bridges in Jamaica

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Big Tobacco did its best to promote its image in Jamaica for World No Tobacco Day but ended up highlighting the importance of this year’s WNTD focus on tobacco industry interference.

For several days leading up to WNTD 2012, local cigarette manufacturer Carreras Limited, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, announced a new youth scholarship program, donated motorcycles to the Jamaican police force, and publicly challenged the validity of FCTC Article 5.3.

These are just a few of the latest tactics in the industry’s effort to delay passage of a comprehensive tobacco control law which has been in development for several years.

Through its Health Ministry, the Jamaican government is in the final stages of reviewing the Tobacco Control Regulations, which will protect citizens from the effects of tobacco through a number of measures, including making public places 100 percent smoke-free.

Cigarettes: Legal by Accident

On 31 May, members of the Jamaican Heart Foundation and Global Bridges met with the editorial board from The Gleaner, one of the leading Jamaican newspapers, to correct some of the misperceptions created by tobacco executives.

Dr. Richard Hurt, Director of Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and Chair of Global Bridges, shared perspectives from Judge Gladys Kessler’s final judgment in the U.S. government’s lawsuit against Big Tobacco.

He pointed out if the dangers of cigarettes were understood when it was first introduced as a product, it would not have been allowed on the market. “The cigarette is a legal product by historical accident,” said Dr. Hurt.

Dr.. Knox Hadley, Chairman of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Coalition on Tobacco Control, emphasized that comprehensive tobacco legislation is essential to protect the public health.

The next day, The Gleaner ran two tobacco-related articles: Smoke-Free Public Spaces Now! and Carreras Calls For Balanced Approach to Tobacco-Control Laws.

Global Bridges Workshop

On 30 May, Dr. Hurt and Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center Counselor Tim Milbrandt led a full-day workshop on tobacco dependence treatment and motivational interviewing for 35 participants from 11 countries in the Caribbean region.

The workshop was co-hosted by the InterAmerican Heart Foundation and the Healthy Caribbean Coalition.

The concept of pursuing an “endgame” strategy in the region, modeled on the programs in New Zealand and Singapore which aim to reduce tobacco use to zero, was enthusiastically discussed.

Two countries in the region, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago, have 100 percent smoke-free laws.  Workshop participants from all countries enjoyed sharing learning and ideas.

Regional leaders are now developing a coordinated strategic plan to continue policy progress and expand the availability of treatment support for smokers who want to stop smoking.

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