No smoking zones

Guyana Chronicle
June 5, 2001

HEALTH Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy is getting into the no smoking zone habit with admirable enthusiasm.

He last week officially declared all public health facilities, including the Georgetown Hospital, `Smoke Free' zones, dubbing the administrative move "an assault" on bad health practices.

The minister has also pledged to put legislation in place to penalise persons found selling cigarettes to minors and smoking in public and private health facilities.

The moves are taking Guyana in line with practices that have been established in many other countries where smoking is prohibited in public places.

Some offices in Guyana have also banned smoking indoors, a move that is expected to spread now with the Health Minister's initiative.

The serious dangers of smoking have led some countries to ban even cigarette advertising and tobacco companies are now hard put to sponsor sporting events that they once did with ease.

We particularly welcome Dr. Ramsammy's promise to get after dealers who target minors because that's a danger area.

Once kids get into the habit of smoking cigarettes, they can get addicted and move on to marijuana and even harder drugs.

"It is too easy to access tobacco products in this country. I'm going to introduce legislation to prohibit children being able to purchase tobacco products", Dr. Ramsammy stressed last week.

He noted that smokers don't only harm themselves but others who inhale the smoke, increasing the numbers of persons who die as a result of smoke related illnesses.

The risk from second hand smoke makes it extremely important that the campaign to ban smoking in public places be stepped up.

This should go hand-in-hand with a public education programme because the dangers of cigarette smoking are not so evident in Guyana, especially among young people.

Dr. Ramsammy has said that until the required legislation is passed by Parliament, persons found smoking in public health facilities will be asked to leave the compound.

Other government offices and private businesses should join this campaign to help spread the message.

As the Health Minister noted, it will be irresponsible of his ministry if it fails to address smoking knowing the habit has serious implication on one's health.

Studies have shown that some 30 per cent of school children here smoke and half of them admitted they smoke at home, while others express a desire to quit, he reported.

"Tobacco is not good for people's health. It contributes to morbidity and mortality."

People who smoke suffer from heart disease, impotence, cataracts, skin damage, lung diseases and stomach illness, just to mention a few, the Health Minister said.

He stressed that the recent move is to protect people from second hand smoke.

He would have the support of a lot of people in this society if he is to step up the campaign.