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NCDA head calls for greater enforcement of laws

Monday, September 10, 2018

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EXECUTIVE director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) Michael Tucker is calling for greater enforcement of the laws governing underage drug and alcohol use.

“We understand that the police have been under significant pressure… however, the children's health and often their welfare and safety are at risk when they get into places where they get alcohol and often don't have the wherewithal and don't have the coping skills to deal with consuming alcohol,” Tucker said.

He was speaking with journalists following a media briefing during which the Ministry of Health released the preliminary key findings of the third Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey.

The media briefing was held at the Mona Visitors' Lodge and Conference Centre, The University of the West Indies, last Thursday.

On the topic of substance abuse, the survey showed that current alcohol use was reported by 41 per cent of Jamaicans, 15 years and older. Current alcohol use was the highest in the 25-34 year age group, with six out of 10 males and four out of 10 females reporting.

Current use of tobacco products was reported by 15 per cent of Jamaicans (males, 26 per cent and females, five per cent) 15 years and older. Seventeen per cent of Jamaicans report marijuana use, with predominantly males reporting 29 per cent versus five per cent females. The highest prevalence estimate is in the 15-24 age band (21 per cent).

The executive director pointed out that young people who drink alcohol often engage in risky behaviour, including sexual encounters.

“They also get into arguments, fights and confrontations and, of course, it affects their brains and ability to learn as they go forward,” he added.

“We want and have been trying to partner with the police to try to enforce the laws against underage drinking and smoking. We have made some headway, but we need a concerted effort to target those retailers and those business establishments that consistently encourage youngsters in an environment where they give them alcohol and tobacco and, perhaps, even other drugs,” Tucker said.

Meanwhile, the executive director emphasised that no child or teenager should be able to access alcohol.

“Unfortunately, in the environment in which we operate, retailers will sell to youngsters, many parents will leave alcohol at home in an unlocked cabinet and… the youngsters will see them enjoying themselves with friends and acquaintances having an alcoholic drink and therefore try to mirror that behaviour,” he noted.

Tucker said significant public education has been undertaken, and work is being done with youngsters to try and help build their refusal skills and their knowledge about negative consequences.

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