Smokers in pubs and restaurants throughout Cayman will have stub out their cigarettes starting Thursday.
The new Tobacco Law takes effect from midnight Thursday, meaning New Year’s Eve will the first smoke-free day in public venues.
People caught smoking in enclosed public places face a first-time fine of $2,000 and up to $10,000 for subsequent offences, while business owners can be fined $15,000 and jailed for 12 months for not enforcing the smoking ban on their premises. They also face up a fine of up to $30,000 for a subsequent offence.
Six enforcement officers from the Department of Environmental Health have been tasked with enforcing the new law – five in Grand Cayman and one for the Sister Islands.
The department has not hired additional staff to take on the duties of policing the new law. These are being added to their current duties, according to the Ministry of Health.
The officers are empowered to conduct routine inspections of business premises, including any about which they receive complaints.
The new law remains confusing to some bar owners and managers, who do not believe they have been properly informed about its implementation and its implications.
One bar manager said his premises had extractor fans, so he did not think the law, which he said seemed to have many grey areas, applied to his bar.
Another said he was not clear on whether the law came into effect on New Year’s Eve or the day before. ‘It’s ridiculous if it comes in on the 31st, everyone thinks it’s happening at midnight on New Year’s Eve,’ he said.
Cayman has been waiting nearly five years for the smoking ban. Former Health Minister Gilbert McLean first announced he would push for the measure in early 2005. After the change in government in May 2005, the People’s Progressive Movement government indicated it would proceed with introducing anti-smoking legislation. This was tabled before the Legislative Assembly in March 2007.
A public consultation of the draft bill followed, and in October 2008, the Legislative Assembly passed the revised bill.
The law was supposed to be implemented on 31 May this year, but was delayed. Health officials then set a new date of 30 October, but it was once again put off while regulations were finalised – this time to the end of the year. The regulations were approved by Cabinet earlier this month.
Under the new law, premises that have been licensed as cigar bars are exempt, but they must install adequate ventilation.
The ban covers enclosed bars, restaurants and pool halls, parks, any commercial transport, public toilets, public transportation terminals, such as the cruise terminal, and all shops and shopping centres.
Smoking is still allowed in open air bars and restaurants but with certain restrictions, including that the area is clearly marked and is at least 10 feet away from the non-smoking area or the enclosed section.
The Law defines ”enclosed’ as a premises having a full or partial roof and where the sides are at least 50 per cent covered with walls, windows, blinds or curtains.
The Public Health Department, with the Chamber of Commerce, Cancer Society and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, developed sample signs for tobacco dealers and restaurants and bars.
Public health officials also met with members from the business community to explain the new legislation and its impact on businesses.
‘We are all working together to ensure compliance, and although we urge business owners to have the necessary provisions in place by the end of this year, we are also realistic. As such, we will give business owners until 30 April 2010 to have the necessary, permanent signs in place,’ Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said.
Tobacco retailers and wholesale distributors have until 30 April to register with the Medical Officer of Health at the Public Health Department.
This will be an annual registration and dealers must display their Certificate of Registration (similar to a Trade and Business License). There is a one-time, non-refundable application fee of $100, and the annual registration fees are CI$500 for a retailer; CI$750 for a cigar bar; and CI$5,000 for a wholesale distributor.
For more information on the Tobacco Law and Regulations, business owners can contact the Public Health Department at 244-2621.