Friday, December 15, 2017

‘Curry duck’ picong spices up tobacco debate

As she began her term yesterday, new Minority leader in the Senate, PNM Senator Camille Robinson-Regis, received some picong, with Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj suggesting that she perhaps needed to attend a “curry duck” lime. 

Robinson-Regis was at the time slamming the Government as she contributed to the debate on the motion to approve the Tobacco Control Regulations. 

“You need an invitation to a curry duck lime,” Maharaj taunted. 

“Once it is not curry goat,” Robinson-Regis fired back.

“Ouch!’ cried his colleague, temporary PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds. 

As reported in the Express on Monday, Hinds whose appointment was revoked last Tuesday, was sworn in yesterday as a temporary replacement for Faris Al-Rawi, who is in South Africa for Nelson Mandela memorial service.

Robinson-Regis said while she supported the measure, she had certain concerns. 

She noted that the UNC which was now championing the measure, had abstained while in opposition on the vote of the Tobacco Act. 

The act was passed in 2009, partially proclaimed in February 2010 and fully proclaimed in August 2013. 

Robinson-Regis recalled the UNC members had criticised the act and abstained both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, citing reasons such as taking away the comforts of poor people and denying people their rights.  

This, notwithstanding the fact that it was proven medically and scientifically that smoking caused irreversible damage to the bodies, not only of those who smoke, but those who inhale second hand smoke. 

“What about the rights of the young impressionable person who get cancer and die?” she asked.  

“Those who form the Government seem to have no care for that but as their former leader and by all indications soon to be their current leader—Basdeo Panday—who, says: “Politics has a morality of its own”.  

She said Government’s efforts should be focused on getting persons, especially young people, to stop or to not start smoking.

Robinson-Regis said May 2010 was the annus horribilis because “everything stopped”. She cited the stopping of OPV contract. She said the Children’s Authority was also stuck. 

“What is the relevance of that to the tobacco regulations?” Government members asked.

“I missing Penny (Beckles-Robinson),” Maharaj said. 

“She is missing you too,” Robinson-Regis countered.

Earlier, Health Minister Fuad Khan, in piloting the measure, said the regulation provided for the mandatory labelling requirements for cigarette packaging in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Noting that the health messages and warnings were important in decreasing the attractiveness of smoking, he said, regulations required all health messages to be printed on the carton and not on the packaging. 

“It serves to ensure that the user is always in a position to see the health messages,” he said. 

He said because warnings with pictures were more effective than warnings with just a text in increasing the motivation to quit smoking, graphic pictures would seek to give smokers a visual image of the effects on smoking on the body.

“The disease showed in Schedule 1 (of the regulations) range from cancer to gangrene and there are images of the effect on children who suffer the most because of the poor choices of adult,” he said.

Khan said the regulations provide that the warnings on the dangers of tobacco use would be placed on the lower half of the front and back panels of the pack and must be placed in such a way that the message would not be damaged when the pack is opened. “It must cover half of the principal display area,” he added. 

Cigarette dispensers must also display the health messages, he said.

Khan said cancer as a result of smoking killed six million each year and placed a major strain on the health care costs. He said when one smoked a cigarette 250 toxic compounds entered the body. 

He said the substances are released into the atmosphere and non-smokers are affected. By contrast, he said, when one imbibed alcohol, that toxic system affected the body of only the person imbibing the substance.

He said smoking could cause damage to the lungs, the blood vessels, the heart, the eyes, the kidneys and other parts of the body. He added: “And for Mr Hinds”, it (smoking) can cause impotence,” provoking some chuckles. 

Hinds smiled, but shot back: “We maintain standards here. Don’t be so crass.”