Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said he supports the proposed Tobacco Bill and would even take it further if he had his way.
‘I can find no reason not to support the bill,’ he said. ‘Tobacco is harmful for people who smoke and for people who don’t smoke.’
Mr. Bush said all members of the Opposition had discussed the matter and were in agreement with their support of the bill.
However, Mr. Bush said he also had very strong personal feelings about the bill.
‘I would like to see the whole island tobacco free,’ he said. ‘If I had my way, I’d ban tobacco in this country.’
Mr. Bush said there would be people who would not support his stance, but that it did not matter to him.
‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s a sin to do to one’s body the way [smoking] affects people,’ he said ‘This legislation must pass without being tampered with by lobbyists.’
Mr. Bush downplayed suggestions that a smoking ban would negatively affect Cayman’s economy.
‘The excuses I’ve heard cannot right the wrongs cigarette smoke has caused people all over the world and even in Cayman,’ he said.
Mr. Bush does not believe a smoking ban would cause any economic harm here at all, and that it could even help Cayman as a tourist destination.
‘Normally, when you see the kind of people we want to cater to as a tourist destination, I don’t see this affecting them,’ he said, adding that Cayman’s stay-over tourists tend to have clean lifestyles.
Mr. Bush said smoking is unhealthy and makes people look older than they should look with the passage of time.
‘It affects women even more.’
The Tobacco Bill would help society in many ways, he said.
‘You’re helping the person who smokes by helping them save money and helping them save their health,’ he said. ‘You’re also helping their family because they’re not spending money on cigarettes or cigars.
‘And you’re also helping the public, which doesn’t have to inhale smoke.’
Mr. Bush said it was a proven fact that second-hand smoke kills.
‘It’s obnoxious when you go to a restaurant and have to endure breathing cigarette smoke,’ he said. ‘Smoking is obnoxious in every way possible, not just in restaurants, but in every public place.’
Acknowledging that a complete smoking ban in the Cayman Islands would not be realistic, Mr. Bush called on the government to consider raising duty on cigarettes.
‘Anyone wanting to import [tobacco products] should be made to pay the highest premium,’ he said.
Mr. Bush also called on the government to lead by example.
‘I call on the leaders of government in Cabinet who smoke to quit their habit and take the lead,’ he said. ‘I speak for their own health and others.’
Mr. Bush also said he hoped the government would not back-pedal by watering the law down after the public consultation period. Based on comments made by Minister of Health Anthony Eden at the Cabinet press briefing last week, the government seems resolute.
‘This bill is not about protecting the rights of smokers or business owners,’ Mr. Eden said. ‘It has a broader mandate of protecting every man, woman and child in these islands.’
Citing American statistics, Mr. Eden said that smoking annually kills more people in the US than the combined number of people killed by AIDS, car accidents, alcohol, murder, suicide and illegal drugs. More than 400,000 people die each year because of tobacco use, he said.
Mr. Eden said there are some 4,000 chemicals in each puff of cigarette smoke.
‘At least 69 of these chemicals cause cancer and many more are harmful,’ he said.
The Tobacco Bill is not about the government trying to make moral legislation, Mr. Eden said, noting that the World Health Organisation and the United Kingdom have mandated certain things and that smoking laws have become universal.
‘We don’t have much choice to protecting people, especially in enclosed areas,’ he said.
Mr. Eden acknowledged that the Tobacco Bill had some drafting problems.
‘No, it’s not a perfect piece of legislation,’ he said, adding that the bill was only out for public consultation at this point anyway and that he looked forward to getting feedback on the bill.