Tobacco Law date: 31 Dec.

Cayman Islands lawmakers have set a new date for the implementation of a smoking ban in bars and restaurants after deciding a 30 October deadline could simply not be met.

The new date, set out in a legal amendment to the Tobacco Law (Commencement) Order, 2009 will be 31 December.

Health Minister Mark Scotland had earlier vowed to have the smoking ban in effect “no later than that date” and said the current government fully intended to implement and enforce the smoking ban.

The Tobacco Law was passed in 2008, but its implementation was delayed because government essentially had no way to enforce what had been passed.

“There’s been talk of ‘the minister doesn’t like the bill,” Mr. Scotland said Friday, “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mr. Scotland said his ministry was still taking input from tourism-related businesses and other companies that sell tobacco products. He said regulations are being drafted and the detail required couldn’t be worked out in time for the October commencement date.

The health ministry was hoping to give Cabinet members the final regulations in a few weeks. After that, Mr. Scotland said he would start educational meetings with stakeholders prior to the law taking effect.

The health minister admits some of the penalties being discussed for violation of the law were “a bit stiff” and indicated he wanted to change legal wording to give the courts some options in sentencing first-time offenders. He said he didn’t want to hammer bar and restaurant owners or patrons who hadn’t realised the law was in effect.

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.

“Five or so years on, if we see these things happening, then we can be more draconian,” Mr. Scotland said.

A portion of the Tobacco Law came into effect on 1 May. The legislation set out fines and potential jail sentences for business owners caught selling tobacco to minors.

Although the smoking ban portion of the law was delayed, many restaurants and bars have preempted the government and implemented their own anti-smoking policies.

That section of the law will ban smoking in bars, restaurants and a number of other public places. Outdoor smoking areas in such establishments are permitted provided they are at least 10 feet away from the entrance and an outdoor non-smoking area is also designated.

Cigar bars are exempt 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.