(JIS): Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, says that comprehensive tobacco legislation is coming next year.
He said that the law will, among other things, restrict tobacco companies from advertising in certain settings.
“(It) will require greater warning labels, which will do a number of things to get consumers clear in their minds what the consequences of consuming tobacco would be,” the minister indicated.
He was addressing the Lions Club of Kingston luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday.
Tufton, in his presentation, reiterated his call for Jamaicans to take responsibility for their health and well-being by improving the lifestyle choices they make.
“The ultimate prescription to address prevention is for persons to take responsibility for themselves and to adjust their lifestyles, their activities, their behaviour in keeping with proper health and wellness practices,” he said.
He re-emphasised the need for persons to engage in regular physical activity and eat a balanced diet in order to prevent and combat non-communicable diseases, also called lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
“Jamaicans are increasingly at a greater risk of being obese or overweight, the consequences of which are lifestyle diseases that are ultimately causing their demise. Indeed, over 70 per cent of deaths each year are accountable to lifestyle-related diseases,” he noted.
Tufton cited data from the latest Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, which show that one in three Jamaicans is hypertensive. It further reveals that one in two Jamaicans is overweight/obese; and one in eight persons is suffering from diabetes.
He said findings from the most recent Global School-based Student Health Survey show that obesity is increasing for boys and girls in schools.
“It shows over the last seven years … a doubling of obesity and overweight in our school population. In the case of boys, it’s a double – it’s almost a 100 per cent increase; in the case of girls, it’s 68 per cent,” he lamented.
Tufton said the Government is taking a proactive approach to combating unhealthy lifestyle choices with the introduction of several initiatives.
These include the restriction on certain types of sugary beverages in schools and hospitals starting January 2019; development of the school nutrition policy in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, which will influence what is prepared within the school system; and introduction of the Jamaica Moves initiative in schools.
Tufton, in the meantime, is calling for more Jamaicans to acquire health insurance coverage.
“Health insurance is one area I think we need to advocate for more. We need to challenge the health insurance companies to do more, offer more creative options. If we have to change the regulations, we change it, but part of taking responsibility is to do better for yourself, because, ultimately, it will be in your best interest,” he said.