Jamaica taking steps on liquor abuse, no sign here

The Jamaica government has taken a decision to confront the abuse of hard liquor head on and plans to develop a national alcohol policy in this regard but there is little sign of such moves in Guyana.

According to an article in the Jamaica Observer published on July 2, government will now be turning its attention to controlling the consumption of alcohol as part of measures to prevent abuse of hard liquor, with the hope of reaping the success it did with last year’s tobacco control programme.

“We are going to be tackling this problem by developing a national alcohol policy and we will be consulting with the various stakeholders, including the alcohol industry,” Health Minister Dr Ferguson told the House of Representatives.

“I am referring to the type of drinking that is detrimental to health and has negative social consequences,” said Dr Ferguson, who was making his contribution to the 2014/15 Sectoral Debate.

According to the article Dr. Ferguson said that the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that the “harmful use” of alcohol ranks among the top five risk factors for disease, disability and death throughout the world, as well as being a causal risk factor for more than 200 disease and injury conditions.

He did not give a timeline, however, for the development of the national alcohol policy.

Turning to his tobacco control policy, which will have its first anniversary on July 15, Ferguson used the opportunity to pat himself on the back for giving Jamaicans the chance to breathe cleaner air and reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, the article said.

“We can safely say that the regulations have been a major success,” Dr. Ferguson told the House of Representatives.

He said that amendments to make the implementation easier were approved by Cabinet on June 2, tabled in Parliament on June 11, and gazetted last week. “We extended the deadline for the transitional period to August 16 to give business operators a chance to put the required measures in place,” Dr Ferguson told the House.

However, the health minister had a strong warning for business operators who continued to flout the regulations.

“I give friendly advice to hoteliers, club owners and other businesses that, after this date, if you continue to flout the law, you will be in for major consequences,” he said.

In Guyana alcohol is seen as a big problem as it contributes greatly to murders and traffic related death. The excess use of alcohol has also placed a burden on the health care system.

Last year during an interview with this newspaper health minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran said that tackling alcohol abuse is part of a bigger plan that the ministry has.

He said that while there are plans afoot to revisit the legislative framework governing this issue, there needs to be a push for lifestyle changes. According to him a multi sectorial approach to the scourge is also needed.

In April this year during the 2014 budget debates APNU MP Volda Lawrence castigated the Donald Ramotar administration for failing to address the impact alcohol abuse has on the economy in the proposed budget. She described alcohol as the cheapest and most accessible commodity drug being abused by Guyanese.

She noted that the Health Ministry in a partnership with the Pan American Health Organization found that alcohol was identified as the country’s number one drug problem in 2009 but up to now the budget fails to address the impact alcohol abuse has on the economy.

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