Time to educate, crackdown on tobacco use

Last Updated on Wednesday, 1 June 2022, 7:45 by Writer

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony addressing the public sensitisation programme about the ill-effects of cigarette smoking.

The Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony is urging Guyanese to call in authorities if they see anyone violating the No Tobacco Law as part of an overall crackdown on the potentially deadly habit by enforcement and education. 

Dr Anthony said the government was relying on educating Guyanese about the need to stop smoking in public places but if that fails, those persons would be charged. “Those we have to do more enforcement on and make sure that people understand that and if they don’t want to abide by that, then use the law to charge them,” he added.

He said the World Bank figures show that a large number of adults in Guyana are still smoking. “The latest survey that we have from the World Bank shows that about 12 percent of our adult population is still smoking. That’s quite high and we need to reduce that so we have to encourage people, encourage institutions to come on board with us to help us to reduce (the number) of people who are smoking,” he said at the opening of a sensitisation event on Main Street, Georgetown.

The Health Minister said he was keen on having children educated in the schools about the adverse effects of cigarette smoking on human health.

Chief Education Officer Dr Marcel Hutson stressed the importance of education about the impact of tobacco on health as part of a process to “break the cycle of death.” He warned that smoking could cause cancers, pneumonia, heart ailments, diabetes and the weakening of the bones. “Information like this must get into the school system where our students must be targeted at a very early stage and age so that, as they grow and develop, they, too, could become agents of change so we could beat back this scourge,” he added.

The Health Minister also identified the need for greater awareness among members of the public and business owners about the provisions of the 2017 Tobacco Control Act such as smoking indoor and public spaces. He stopped short of seriously criticising those responsible for enforcing the legislation. “Many of our institutions that have the task of imposing those fines, they have not been diligent in how they are doing so, so we’re hoping that by more public education that we’ll get the various institutions to take on their responsibility,” he said.

Dr Anthony noted that the Act provides for how and to whom cigarettes could be sold. He said the law also provides for the packaging of cigarettes including a warning by the Minister of Health.

At the same time, he said tobacco companies engage in advertising that aims to create habitual smoking among young people.