The government has drafted a new tobacco bill that might be tabled in the Legislative Assembly as early as February.
Reading from a statement during the Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the revised bill took on board comments provided during the public consultation period that followed the tabling of the discussion white paper bill last March.
Mr. Tibbetts said the revised bill would also be tabled with regulations.
‘Questions raised during the consultation period resulted in the Ministry [of Health] deciding to prepare accompanying regulations before taking the bill back to Legislative Assembly,’ he said. ‘We trust having regulations will assist the public in better understanding how the legislation will be enforced, and we look forward to the continued cooperation of all in passing a Tobacco Law in the Cayman Islands.’
Although he did not go into the details of the difference between the draft bill and the revised bill, Minister of Health Anthony Eden said there were ‘not a lot of major changes’.
‘[The Tobacco Bill] is about the health of the people,’ he said. ‘It’s not about denying anyone making money.’
Mr. Eden said that contrary to what some are suggesting, he has the complete support of his fellow Cabinet members in passing a Tobacco Law, in spite of the fact that some of them smoke cigarettes.
He noted that many other countries, even some where smoking is prevalent, have moved to pass restrictive smoking laws in the interest of public health.
Mr. Eden said he hoped the revised Tobacco Bill and regulations could be presented in the Legislative Assembly during the meeting that will begin in February, but he cautioned that sometimes things came up to slow down the process.
The draft Tobacco Bill banned smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants, parks and other gathering places. It also put strict regulations on the sale, advertising, display and packaging of tobacco products.
Several business owners complained about the possible negative effect a smoking ban would have on their businesses.
Cigar bars, in particular, lobbied to be exempt from the law because their business caters specifically to smokers. In addition, many American tourists look to purchase Cuban cigars while here because they are illegal in the United States because of the country’s on-going economic embargo of Cuba.
The statement read at the Cabinet press briefing was signed by Ministry of Health and Human Services Chief Officer Diane Montoya. It came the same week as a front-page story and editorial in he Caymanian Compass expressed the public’s frustration for the lack of progress in enacting a Tobacco Law after the tabling of the draft bill last March.