Thursday 26 November, 2020

Gov't to introduce tobacco, alcohol and trans fat policies - Tufton

The Government has said it will introduce tobacco control legislation in the Parliament before the end of the financial year as it steps up efforts to get Jamaicans to practice more healthy lifestyles.

The new legislation will provide “significant overhauling of the country’s approach to tobacco consumption”.

That’s according to the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, who made the announcement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The government will also table an alcohol policy by way of a Green Paper which Tufton said is almost complete and will be advancing ‘front of package labelling’.

“We believe that consumers must know what is in their food and front of package labelling is going to be a critical area of advocacy and hopefully policy change overtime,” Tufton said.   

He disclosed that the health ministry is pushing to complete what he called a sodium and sugar study. It will be used to determine the baseline presence of sodium and sugars in Jamaicans’ diet. A new policy on the use of sodium and sugar is also being developed.

And Tufton disclosed that a non-communicable disease (NCD) taskforce is being established to support consultation and collaboration as well as research and development in the area of NCD prevention. He also said a baseline study on the consumption of trans fat is underway to establish empirical evidence to support new policies in relation to fats and the consumption of fats or trans fat in the local diet.

The health and wellness minister also said greater emphasis and implementation will be placed on the breastfeeding policy as a means of preventing childhood obesity, while establishing a good nutritional base for children.

He said the developments are part of a mix of policy initiatives focusing on prevention, and are aimed at tackling NCDs which are responsible for 70 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica.

“These will enable us to strengthen primordial prevention strategies,” Tufton said.

The minster pointed to a recent survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that shows that people with diabetes were up to three times more likely to have severe symptoms or die from COVID-19 while hypertension and cardiovascular diseases increase the odds for severe COVID-19 multiple times.

The WHO survey pointed to other risk factors such as obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer, particularly blood cancers that put people at increased risk of dying from COVID-19. The survey found that persons who smoke were 1.5 times more likely to have severe complications from the coronavirus while those who abuse alcohol were likely to also end up with severe complications.

Tufton said the government was cognisant of the fact that it “must tackle the rising scourge of NCDs and the associated risks, both from a public health perspective as well as an economic perspective”. This he said was based on three main pillars – prevention, treatment and care and infrastructure development.

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