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Legislation on public smoking on the way

Legislation on public smoking on the way


Tough laws to deal with vehicle exhaust and public smoking are coming to St Vincent and the Grenadines, this country’s Minister of Health and the Environment Dr Douglas Slater has said.{{more}}

Last Tuesday, May 6th, Dr Slater addressed the audience gathered at the School of Nursing for the presentation of the findings on the National Asthma and Allergy Study, which was recently conducted, and pointed to air pollution as a problem that needed urgent attention.

Dr Slater said that with the influx of motor vehicles into the country, the exhaust from these vehicles is having a negative impact. “Even if you don’t have asthma, you could feel it,” he said.

He also voiced concern about the new chemicals that have been introduced into industry and manufacturing, along with the new chemicals that have been added to foods.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT after the presentation, Dr Slater said that while discussions on legislation to deal with motor vehicle exhaust are ongoing, work on the piece of legislation to address public smoking is more advanced.

The study, which was conducted by the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), based on an International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) questionnaire, shows that of the 411 randomly selected primary and secondary school students sampled (213 six year olds & 198 thirteen year olds), 28.2 percent were asthmatic.

The prevalence percentage was just slightly higher in the six year olds at 27.7, compared with the 26.8 of the thirteen year olds.

An interesting fact that was seen in the report is that 17.5 per cent of parents of asthmatic children surveyed say that they have used “herbal medicines” in addition to regular medication and treatments for asthma in their children.

The herbal medications include baby bush, mint grass, wild onions and marijuana.

“There is no scientific evidence as regards herbal remedies, and this must be remembered,” said the national asthma coordinator, Family Nursing Practitioner, Sister Hyacinth Bacchus.

Bacchus also welcomed the steps being taken to bring legislation to deal especially with smoking in the public, citing poor air quality as a known trigger of asthmatic attacks.

“Smoking should be out of public places,’ she said.

The treatment of asthma has also been costing the government a tidy sum.

In 2003, approximately EC$94,500 was spent by the government on asthma medication. And while this figure dipped to EC$ 55,493 in 2004, that figure went back up to EC$87,388 in 2005, the report states.

These figures do not capture the purchases by the privately owned/operated pharmacies, nor do they reflect the visits to private doctors, the report further stated.

Another key financial consideration, that was identified by Dr Slater during his address is the EC$16,000 per month that the government had been spending on oxygen importation in 2001.

He said that since then, $300,000 was spent on equipment to facilitate this country making its own oxygen, but over time, this supply became inadequate as demand increased.

The government now has to source additional oxygen from private sources.

“As we speak, we are in serious discussions aimed at acquiring another generator for oxygen,” he said.

Preparation for the study which also included data on allergies and eczema began in 2003, but only got going in February of 2007.