From next year, smokers can expect to see large graphic health warnings on their packets of cigarettes.
Under new regulations for the Tobacco Law recently approved by Cabinet, cigarette packs in Cayman must display large text warnings taking up nearly a third of the display area, parallel to the top edge of the packet.
Currently, cigarettes sold in Cayman carry a health warning down one side of the packets.
The Tobacco Law comes into effect on 31 December and bans smoking in all public indoor areas.
Health minister Mark Scotland met on Monday with retailers, wholesalers and importers of tobacco products, as well as health officials, representatives from the tourism industry, police and members of the Cancer Society to discuss the new law, its regulations and associated fees and enforcement.
Debbie McTaggart from Uncle Bill’s, which imports tobacco from major manufacturer Philip Morris, said importers and retailers had been told there would be a grace period to allow time for the current stock of products with the smaller warnings to be sold.
‘The issue we had was not with the fees, it was more with the enforcement of the law and the licensing for small businesses,’ Mrs. McTaggart said.
She said the meeting also dealt with clarifications on the definition of a ‘public open space’.
‘It’s not clearly defined in the law,’ she said.
Under the regulations, anyone selling tobacco must apply for a certificate of registration, which costs $100. In addition, retailers must pay an annual registration fee of $500, operators of cigar bars must pay $750 and wholesale distributors or importers must pay $5,000.
‘Small business owners need to pay $600; $100 to register and then a $500 annual fee,’ Mrs. McTaggart said, adding that some business owners might find it difficult to pay those fees in this harsh economic climate.
She said the minister had assured retailers that elements of the new law could be tweaked after it was implemented, if necessary.
Under the new regulation, sellers of tobacco products must display prominently a health warning sign at the point of sale stating ‘Smoking kills’ or ‘Smoking is dangerous to your health’ or a similar message determined by the Chief Officer of Health. These signs must be no smaller than 8.5 inches high by 14 inches wide.
Stores must also erect signs warning that tobacco is not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
Owners will also be required to erect a ‘No Smoking’ sign over each entrance and exit of their premises.
Harry Lalli, who runs a number of bars and restaurants as well as the Treasure Island resort, was one of the representatives of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association at Monday’s meeting. He said signage was one of the concerns raised by bar and restaurant operators who were concerned that there was not enough time by 31 December to order and erect signs that meet the regulations.
Mr. Lalli said another issue was ensuring that members of the public were educated about the new law. ‘We, as bar owners, don’t want to be fined for somebody smoking on the premises if that person can say he didn’t realise he couldn’t smoke there.’
He also queried the definition of outdoor areas, such as the large lobby at Treasure Islands, or Royal Palms. ‘The law says you can’t smoke 10 feet from the entrance. Does that mean you have to smoke on the road?’ he asked.
Retailers are asking for a grace period during which such issues can be sorted out. ‘A grace period was discussed, we don’t know how long that grace period will be or whether a grace period will hold up in court if it’s not written in the law,’ Mr. Lalli said.
Christine Sanders of the Cancer Society said she felt stakeholders at the meeting were ‘not against the spirit of the legislation’.
Cigar bars exempt
The Cancer Society remains opposed to exemptions for cigar bars. ‘We feel that that is a potential area where there may be a loophole as far as cigar bars are concerned. Everybody is entitled to a living, but cigars are as dangerous as any other tobacco product.
‘We don’t see what is stopping any existing establishment out there from applying to become a cigar bar versus just a bar,’ Ms Sanders said.
Cigar bars are exempt from the new law, but are required to install ventilators and extractors by the end of next December.
Ms Sanders said the Society also had concerns over smoking in outdoor bars and restaurants.
Smoking is allowed in outdoor bars and restaurants, as long as those areas are further than 10 feet from a public place and a no-smoking area is designated within the premises.
The regulations also prohibit internet sales of cigarettes locally. Tobacco dealers must keep records of each internet transaction for inspection.
The regulations make provision for designated smoking areas in public places. These must be approved by the Building Control Unit of the Planning Department and the Department of Environments, and include rented condominiums, hotel bedrooms and halls of residences’ sleeping rooms.
Public places include office buildings, common areas of apartment buildings, health care facilities, educational institutions, gyms, beauty parlours, barber shops, parks, factories and warehouses, public transportation, public toilets, shopping centres, libraries, galleries, museums, cinemas and theatres, sports stadia, bars and restaurants, pool halls, government-owned facilities rented out for functions and correctional facilities.
The new law also gives powers to authorised Environmental Health officers to inspect public premises selling tobacco products or in which people are smoking. It also gives them power to enter private dwellings, if they have a warrant from a magistrate or judge, when they believe someone is selling or manufacturing tobacco products on the premises.
The law bans advertising of tobacco products, including through sponsorship.