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Jamaica: more tobacco, Despite FCTC

Going against trends in most of the rest of the world, especially among countries committed to implementing to the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Jamaica is increasing tobacco production. It is not just that the department of agriculture has decided to stimulate tobacco leaf growing, but recent events suggest a larger and more sinister trend. The most striking illustration of how little the Jamaican government seems to understand the tobacco problem and what the FCTC is all about is a notorious collaboration with Carreras Limited, local subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT), on a youth education programme.

When the government announced the proposed increase in leaf production, the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control put out a press release pointing out that the move was in breach of the spirit of the FCTC, which Jamaica signed in 2003 and ratified in 2005. The press release included an open letter to Jamaica's prime minister, addressing the government's apparent disregard for the FCTC. Apart from the tobacco growing announcement and the education ministry's collaboration with BAT on the youth education programme, Jamaica has still not initiated any significant implementation of the treaty. In addition, the coalition cited other examples of disturbing pro-tobacco signals coming from the government, such as the acceptance of direct financial support from BAT for repairing police vehicles.

The coalition, based at the country's heart foundation, is part of the Caribbean tobacco control project, a four-country project (with Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago) funded by the Bloomberg Global Initiative. It is an example of how competent non-government organisations are now at work in many areas where in the past, the industry often went unchallenged. And a challenge …

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