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EDITORIAL – Smoking ban step in right direction


marciadottin, [email protected]

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WE WELCOME the ban on smoking in public places from October 1, and see it as a decisive step in the effort to minimise the deadly impact of this addictive habit on our society.The ban, announced on Thursday by Minister of Health Donville Inniss, comes with stiff fines for smokers and also for businesses that refuse to clamp down on people taking a puff on their premises.It covers rum shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, other businesses, Government buildings and places such as libraries and museums.The fines, $500 or a 12-month prison term or both for smokers found guilty of breaking the regulations, and $5 000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both for proprietors found guilty of allowing people to smoke in a public place, are necessary as deterrents.People need to understand that smoking can eventually kill not only the smoker but also those who are exposed to the smoke. Exposure to smoking can also lead to the development of certain cancers that can reduce the quality of life of those affected, necessitate expensive medical treatment, and ultimately lead to their death. Reputable scientific tests have shown this indisputable link.Government’s move is therefore a step in the right direction; indeed, one could say it is long overdue.This imminent ban highlights what tireless advocacy can do to help change public perception about an issue and habits that are detrimental to the majority in a society. It demonstrates, too, how one individual’s conviction and dedication to uplifting their community can make a difference.Here we acknowledge the sterling work of Dr Tony Gale. For more than 30 years his was the lonely voice battling against big budget advertising campaigns and community sponsorship by the tobacco industry, stating boldly that though a fashionable habit indulged in by the most influential in society, smoking was no good. It took courage and strength of character for him to wage this anti-smoking war. And his contribution to sensitising Barbadians, along with relentless lobbying of successive governments, led to this country having one of the lowest recorded national smoking rates in the world.Dr Gale is just one of a number of eminent Barbadians whose vision for a healthier Barbados has led them to dedicate themselves to educating the public on making the right lifestyle choices for their better health.The late Sir Clyde Gollop’s work through the Barbados Family Planning Association is another example. He pioneered sexual health education in offices and on construction sites, where he distributed condoms, showed how to use them, and spoke about the need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. This was in an era when the incurable herpes and HIV/AIDS infections were not yet known to exist, and sex was an extremely taboo subject.His work had a liberating effect on women in particular as it empowered them to decide how many children they would have. This led to a reduction in unwanted pregnancies, longer exposure to formal education, more opportunities for women in the workplace and generally, as well as more accepting attitudes to the Termination of Pregnancy Act, passed more than 25 years ago.Today the battle is on to educate Barbadians on the need to avoid chronic non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, by eating right and exercising regularly. There is also the fight for the use of breathalyser tests to stop injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers.

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