Reprieve for smokers

No smoking ban until 30 October

Smokers will be able to light up in bars and restaurants for almost another six months after new delays in introducing the Tobacco Law.

Health Officials had earlier mooted a 31 May start date for the new anti-smoking regime – to coincide with World No Tobacco Day – but have now announced that most parts of the law, including a ban on smoking in public places, will come into effect on 30 October.

One important aspect of the law is already in effect, however – a ban on selling tobacco products to minors. The long-awaited ban on selling to minors came into effect on 1 May, coinciding with the start of Child Month in the Cayman Islands.

One of the most vocal proponents of anti-smoking legislation, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, said it is pleased to see it is finally illegal to sell tobacco to minors. But CICS director Christine Sanders expressed frustration with the delay in implementing other parts of the law.

‘This means the health of smokers and non-smokers, particularly cancer survivors and those chronically ill; for example, with respiratory diseases, are being put at risk,’ Ms Sanders said.

‘We hope that Government, in conjunction with other agencies, such as the Society, will use the interim time to develop and implement a public awareness program for all stakeholders on what the law means to them.’

In a statement responding to question from the Caymanian Compass, the Ministry of Health and Human Services said the extra time was needed to put appropriate enforcement measures in place.

‘There is no point in bringing a law (or section) into effect, if it cannot be enforced,’ the statement said. ‘Because this law includes fundamental changes to how things will be done, it also requires regulations and a host of new procedures. As such, putting enforcement measures [in place] will take time as it involves multiple agencies/stakeholders.’

The Ministry said it is working with the Public Health Department to develop a public education plan to help business owners understand the law.

Delays

The latest delay in introducing anti-tobacco measures in the Cayman Islands is one of many. Mr. Eden spoke about passing the law months after taking office in 2005, but it was not until October 2008 that the bill passed the Legislative Assembly.

In the interim, doctors and health groups such as the Cancer Society bemoaned the time it was taking to pass what they saw as urgently needed legislation.

Many restaurants and bars themselves grew tired of waiting for the law and implemented their own anti-smoking policies.

Once in effect, the law will ban smoking in bars, restaurants and a host of other public places; however outdoor smoking areas in such establishments are permitted, provided they are 10 feet away from the entrance and an outdoor non-smoking area is also designated.

Cigar bars are exempted from the law provided they install approved air-extraction and ventilation systems within a year of the law coming into effect.

Another section of the law that deals with how retailers display tobacco products in their stores will not be implemented until a later, unspecified date.

Business owners found not to be enforcing smoking bans face a $15,000 fine for a first offence and up to 12 months jail or $30,000 in fines for a subsequent conviction.

Individuals caught smoking illegally in a public place face a first-time fine of $2,000 and up to a $10,000 fine for a subsequent conviction.

Retailers caught selling to minors will face an initial fine of $5,000 that will increases to $15,000 for subsequent offences.

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