Private school becomes smoke free zone
Ramsammy urges anti-smoking legislation
By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
May 31, 2003

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The Marian Academy has become the first school in Guyana to be declared a smoke free zone and Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy says he will push for strict control on smoking.

The event, which coincides with World No Tobacco Day, was described by Ramsammy, as an important part of Guyana’s drive for a healthier nation and healthier children. The theme for this year is `Tobacco Free Film, Tobacco Free Fashion.’

It is expected that the New Guyana School along with two public schools will follow Marian Academy soon.

The smoke free school initiative builds on the World Health Day Campaign 2003, `Shape the Future of Life, Healthy Environments for Children.’

This campaign which was launched on World Health Day on April 7, 2003 aims to address the various environmental issues highlighted in the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) document.

These are household water security, hygiene and sanitation, air pollution, disease vectors, chemical hazards, unintentional injuries and solid waste.

Marian Academy and the New Guyana School will hold sessions on the dangers of tobacco and students will then be involved in the development of promotional materials.

It is expected, Ramsammy said, that this year alone more than five million people will die from tobacco and should the consumption rate continue, ten million persons will succumb every year by 2030.

The minister told the school’s administration and the student population that they have started their battle so that “we can remove this lethal substance.”

The minister described tobacco as an epidemic that causes illness in more than fifty ways and called for laws to deal with the issue.

He called on other schools to follow in the footsteps of Marian Academy and stated that they should not wait on the Minister of Education to ask for the school to be a smoke free zone.

The minister said that he would attempt to provide leadership by trying to get laws enacted to enhance the fight.

Yesterday’s event was said to be important in light of the recently signed WHO framework convention on tobacco control.

It was decided that what was needed was a treaty between countries on what action should be taken and this culminated in the signing of the convention last week.

The minister disclosed that during the negotiations it was acknowledged that countries had different interests to protect as some of them were producers of tobacco while others manufactured tobacco products.

However, the convention was in the end unanimously approved.

Countries now have to ratify the convention and they are expected to give life to it by passing legislation.

“It might take years in some countries, including Guyana, for such legislation to pass”, he said.

He noted that Guyana public health convention does not include tobacco and that he was going to have it included.

He said that this would mean that persons should be licensed to sell cigarettes and also where it was being sold there should be educational material available.

It will also mean that persons under certain ages should not be permitted to buy cigarettes and should anyone be caught selling them to children they would be prosecuted.

An important provision in the convention is one to educate the public and to ban advertisements of tobacco products.

The minister acknowledged that tobacco is not an illegal product and people have the right to smoke. He said his campaign is not to diminish the rights of those persons but to diminish their urge to use that right. He pointed out that non-smokers also have rights and when people smoke in public they are infringing on the rights of others.

The declaration of Marian Academy as a smoke free zone was pushed by PAHO/WHO and the school’s environmental club.

Resident representative of PAHO/WHO, Dr Bernadette Theodore-Ghandi was present at the ceremony.

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