Health Minister Vows to Continue to Push Implementation of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Despite the Challenges

Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson says he remains committed and resolute to advancing the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Dr. Ferguson was speaking at the 10th anniversary of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) held on Friday (February 27, 2015) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting looked at some of the key achievements of the 10 years of implementation of the FCTC as well as some of the experiences of the Parties in terms of implementing aspects of the Treaty at the country level.

Dr. Ferguson told the gathering that he recognized upon his appointment as Health Minister “that leading the process towards full implementation of the FCTC needed to be a priority of my government especially with the high incidence of non-communicable diseases among our population and within that the prevalence of respiratory illnesses that can be linked to exposure to tobacco smoke.”

In his address which looked at the important role of leadership in tobacco control and advancing the FCTC implementation, Dr. Ferguson made reference to several attempts to destroy his credibility and undermine his work and that of the Ministry of Health as a result of the decision to implement aspects of the FCTC through the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013.

“I was accused by the tobacco industry and its supporters and persons with vested interests of creating chaos and some, in spite of the warning 18 months before, felt that I came as Nicodemus by night. The challenges remain many and varied. One such was a judicial review claim filed by the industry to quash certain fundamental provisions in the regulations. The claim was not substantiated and was eventually withdrawn,” Dr. Ferguson explained.

In addition he said other tactics include letters to the editor; articles in the print media attacking him and the Ministry of Health; attacks on his credibility and work even outside of tobacco control; and deliberate moves by the tobacco industry to garner support from stakeholders who would be impacted by the regulation of tobacco use.

“I was not daunted as we recognized that there was a need for urgent action and fixity of purpose, particularly given the burden on health care and the need to positively respond to this global epidemic and uphold Jamaica’s international treaty obligations under the FCTC.”

Jamaica implemented the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013 on July 15, 2013. Steps are being taken to put forward comprehensive tobacco control legislation.