Legislation to address the issue of smoking in public places is currently being worked on by the Ministry of Health and it will be evidenced-based.

This was revealed by Senior Health Promotion Officer, Denise Carter Taylor, as she recently provided an update on this country’s move towards implementing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to participants at a workshop hosted by the National Council for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency at the Island Inn Hotel.

Stressing that the Ministry had drafted legislation “which would ban smoking in public places in Barbados”, Mrs. Carter Taylor acknowledged, however, that before this was implemented additional information was being sought, through a survey of proprietors, staff and patrons of rum shops, bars and restaurants. 

The data collection is being undertaken by the Phillips Consulting Group and, should soon be analysed. “Once that report is in the hands of the Health Ministry, within the next two weeks or so, it would be in a good position to move forward with the legislation,” said the Senior Health Promotion Officer.

Mrs. Carter Taylor explained that at a meeting in Thailand in July 2007, the Conference of Parties, an administrative body that makes decisions regarding the FCTC, adopted guidelines for the implementation of Article 8, which addresses the issue of smoke-free environment. According to her, one of the recommendations with respect to Article 8 was that there be 100 percent smoke-free spaces as opposed to designated smoking and non-smoking areas. 

She said: “At one time, it was felt that you could have designated smoking areas and have extractor fans; but if any of you have been into places where that type of arrangement exists, you know that you can still smell tobacco smoke.”

Barbados signed the FCTC on June 28, 2004, and it was ratified by Cabinet on November 3, 2005. The instrument was deposited at the United Nations in New York and came into force, as a legal instrument for Barbados, on February 3, 2006.

The FCTC contains a number of Articles, some of which are binding on countries. Priority areas for Barbados are:  Article 8 – Protection from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke; Article 11 – Packaging and Labelling of Tobacco Products; Article 12 – Education, Communication and Public Awareness; Article 13 – Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship and Article 16 – Sale of Tobacco to Minors.

With respect to Article 11 – Packaging and Labelling of Tobacco Products, there has been an agreement at the regional level among CARICOM, that member countries should have a common standard for packaging and labelling of cigarettes.   A standard has been drafted and circulated to countries for comment. Barbados, through its National Standards Institute, has reviewed that standard and has forwarded it to the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), CARICOM, as well as the Pan-American Health Organisation.

Article 12 which addresses Education, Communication and Public Awareness is ongoing, with the Health Ministry supporting an initiative by the National Council on Substance Abuse, called the Life Education Centre – a mobile classroom that is outfitted with computer aided technology.  The Life Education Centre visits primary schools and children participate in health education sessions, including information on tobacco smoking. It has been well received by the children and their teachers and there has been positive feedback. It has been shown that it aids the understanding of how the body works.

In respect of Article 13, which deals with Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship, countries agreed that there should be international cooperation because of the pervasive nature of the media and challenges related to cross-border advertising, as a result of access to cable television. The report from a working group on this issue is expected to be presented to the meeting of the third Conference of the Parties later this year.

Article 16 – Sale of Tobacco to Minors – is also being addressed by way of a draft policy that is now under discussion. It recognises the fact that there is currently no legislation preventing the sale of tobacco to minors.

Meeting the provisions in these Articles is not the only task that the Health Ministry must fulfill. Like other countries that are party to the convention, Barbados will need to report on a periodic basis to the FCTC Secretariat, to update them on where we are in terms of implementing the various provisions. The Ministry is presently collecting the information for the formulation of the report. It requires the assistance of other agencies, including trade, customs, education and law enforcement since the issue of tobacco control is multi-dimensional.

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