MINISTER PHIPPS SUPPORTS PROHIBITION OF SMOKING MARIJUANA IN PUBLIC PLACES, ESPECIALLY AROUND CHILDREN

Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 02, 2019 (SKNIS): The Honourable Wendy C. Phipps, Minister of State with responsibility for the Ministry of Health, who supported the Bill shortly entitled Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill 2019, is pleased that the Bill seeks to prohibit smoking marijuana in public places, especially around children.

“This is something that the Ministry of Health thoroughly endorses,” she said during a Sitting of Parliament on July 30, 2019. “We also have to bear in mind that there are other international commitments that we as a Federation are about to make when it comes to the World Health Organization (WHO) and one of those commitments includes the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been opened for signing since 2013.”

She reported that a draft Tobacco Control Bill would have been before the Attorney General’s Chambers and is being looked at in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and National Security.

Minister Phipps noted while the convention speaks to the smoking of tobacco, its provisions are still relevant to what the government is trying to achieve especially as it relates to the dangers of smoking and smoking in public. She added that there is a lot to learn and a lot that the government is examining with regards to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco.

“One of the reasons for this concern is the fact that smoking, as the mover of the Bill would have noted, creates a lot of negative impacts on health especially respiratory illnesses for both the smoker and persons who are exposed to secondhand smoke,” she said. “In many cases, smoking leads to cancer which is a non-communicable disease. While we are on that subject, I wish to remind us all that the leading cause of death and disability in the Federation is NCDs, which accounts for 83 percent of our deaths. Based on WHO statistics, the global number of deaths annually as a result of smoking is pegged at over 7.1 million. So that is not a small matter.”

The senator stated that 1.2 million deaths would have been caused annually due to secondhand smoke.

When it comes to children, as it relates to second-hand smoke, the data from the WHO shows that 65,000 children die annually as a result of secondhand smoke. “So that is telling us that 5.4 percent of the global deaths, due to secondhand smoke, are deaths to children,” she said.

She said that she is equally pleased that the Amendment to the Drug Act will also consider the health and welfare of children in particular, especially where marijuana use is concerned.

“As such, section 6B would be taking into consideration that the use of cannabis, possession of cannabis, should be prohibited on school buses, school zones, school premises, as well as private residences that can also be doubling as home-based licensed childcare centers,” said Minister Phipps.

The minister noted that from the draft bill there is a fine in the region of $30,000 that is being proposed for persons found in breach of this requirement.

“This sends to the public the message of how serious the government regards the safety, health and welfare of our children and of course the harmful effects that can come to them should they be exposed over time to secondhand smoke from the adults in their lives,” said Minister Phipps.

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