Two striking developments occurred in the House of Assembly this week that have nothing to do with the rancorous debate between Government and Opposition legislators on the controversial restoration of the 10 per cent pay cut.
They were Parliament’s approval of the Health Services (Amendment) Bill, which prohibits the use of the electronic cigarette in public areas; and the noteworthy confession from Opposition Leader Mia Mottley that she was struggling to quit smoking, while imploring young Barbadians to stay away from the addictive practice.
“. . . Maybe the Minister of Health and I are the two people who can speak to this issue and I commend him because he, like me, knows what it is to deal with the attraction of smoking cigarettes,” she said.
While we may never know how much her advice will impact Barbadians, the personal message from a high profile politician certainly adds weight to the timeless warning that there are no benefits to smoking.
Her admission no doubt mirrors the experience of countless other smokers who are trying to kick the habit and need extra encouragement.
To them we say press on.
The ban on electronic cigarettes is good news for public health, and certainly advances already existing legislation which prohibits the use of tobacco products in public.
The electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is simply a more sophisticated form of smoking. It is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking, and works by heating up a nicotine liquid.
And don’t think for one moment that the practice is only prevalent in developed countries or on television.
According to Health Minister John Boyce, e-smoking is prevalent in Barbados, particularly among young people – certainly more than enough justification to impose a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
Proponents argue that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking real cigarettes because they contain no tobacco and users are only inhaling water vapour and nicotine.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already red-flagged e-cigarettes, underscoring that the use of the device is no less harmful than smoking the traditional cigarette.
Scientists have explained that nicotine is an addictive chemical and the vapours contain potentially dangerous chemicals. They have also warned that`e-cigarettes can cause long-term lung damage.
The WHO is also not persuaded that e-cigarettes help smokers kick the habit.
As expected, the argument arises that it is certainly the right of adults to make their choices, to smoke or not smoke. But Governments can hardly afford to turn a blind eye to the rights of non-smokers and even those who indulge in the practice until they come to the realization that they are committing suicide with a cigarette – electronic or otherwise.
When all is said and done, there’s simply no way to hide the truth.
Smoking is not just bad for your health, it kills.
Politicians from both the Government and Opposition benches got it right on this issue. This country cannot relax its efforts to snuff out the desire for smoking.
The fact is, the unhealthy practice is a major contributing factor to the spiraling epidemic of non-communicable diseases challenging Barbados.
It can’t be stressed enough that ending smoking in all its forms adds several years to life.
We aver that the Government may very well have to take the radical step of banning the practice altogether.
Apart from forbidding e-smoking in public, the improved Health Services Bill also proposes that cigarette manufacturers place bolder messages about the harmful effects of smoking on their packages.
Enforcement of these measures should also be accompanied by a modern information campaign on the health risks of smoking. The ban will no doubt work best if members of the public realize that it is being enforced for their own good and to ensure that everyone can breathe easier.