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Drayton questions: Why no money for anti-smoking ads?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Government spends $1.5 billion a week and $18,000 for one full-colour advertisement, Independent Senator Helen Drayton said on Tuesday. She was making her contribution to a government motion on the Tobacco Control Act. Drayton said she and all the Independent senators supported the legislation which seeks to regulate the messages put on cigarette packs. 



However, she took issue with Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan’s claim that there was a lack of funds to educate young people on the dangers of smoking. She said the Government spends thousands of dollars every day on ads which sometimes highlight events already gone. For example, Drayton said, Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau visited the Boys’ Industrial School and two or three days later a glorious, full-colour ad appeared in the newspaper highlighting the event.


She said the Government had an approved budget of $61 million. “So, to tell me you can’t find funds to educate our children...children will only see the health messages on the packs after they have purchased them.” Earlier, her colleague, Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan, said the local tobacco industry, represented by one company, had had vastly increased sales over the last three years.


He said there were three significant increases in the price of cigarettes and sales had gone up, not down, since 2010 to now and were still gaining momentum. Price increases have not contributed to a reduction in smoking, Ramkhelawan said. The senator felt one area should not be left untouched while seeking to deal with another and called on the Government to bring regulations to stop false, misleading ads offering vulnerable people cures for diabetes, cancer and a range of illnesses.


“Tomorrow you will hear they have a cure for impotency. So, smoke in the morning and take some ground eggshells in the evening and you have a cure for impotency. They are taking vulnerable people’s money and taking advantage of them,” he added. Dianne Baldeo-Chadeesingh, a new PNM senator, during her maiden contribution expressed great concern for the lottery lady on the street corner who sells “individual units of cigarettes.”


She said clauses in the act required warning messages to be put on cigarettes if they were sold individually and questioned who was going to put those messages, the lottery lady or the cigarette company. This would be very hard, she said, on the lottery lady who was eking out a living selling single cigarettes and who might be a single parent.


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