Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton has disclosed that the tobacco control legislation will soon be moved to the National Assembly after Cabinet’s next sitting.
Dr Norton told the media recently that he is confident that had he not missed Cabinet thrice, the Bill would have been finalised and moved to Parliament.” I am certain it would have been on the order paper.”
His comments comes after Opposition Shadow Public Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony lambasted the Government on World Tobacco Day, May 31, for not putting effective measures in place to curb tobacco smoking, notably the laying of the draft Tobacco Control Bill in the National Assembly.
This Bill is intended to clamp down on the usage of tobacco, which has been scientifically proven to be dangerous to the health of persons using it, as well as the third parties around who are breathing in the exhaled smoke.
The draft legislation is seeking to make all enclosed spaces, public places, work places and public transportation smoke-free areas; ban tobacco promotion and sponsorship; ensure clear graphic warnings are on all tobacco products with the warning picture being 50 per cent of the cigarette package; and ban the selling cigarettes by and to minors among other measures.
According to Dr Norton, “it is not the smokers who are opposing this anti tobacco bill; it is the business people that are opposing it. It must be stated clearly that all of the limitations and changes we are making is in the interest of the general health of the population, inclusive of consulting with them before we make these decisions.”
The Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) – a member of the British American Tobacco (BAT) Group – is urging Guyana’s Government to ensure balanced regulation before approving the legislation.
Last year, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) made calls for Guyana to pass tobacco control legislation, citing it as a top priority.
According to PAHO, each year, tobacco kills six million people: 5.4 million active smokers and 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. It is the single legal consumer product that kills up to half of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer, costing the global economy an estimated US$200 billion each year.