Confusion over smoking complaints

Dealing with night-time complaints about people flouting the smoking ban appears to fall squarely in the lap of the police.

According to the Ministry of Health, people who want to complain about smokers lighting up in public areas where smoking is banned should call their local police station if it is after normal office hours and the Department of Environmental Health during the day.

However, police spokesperson Janet Dougall said enforcement of the new law, which came into force on 31 December, lay primarily with the Department of Environmental Health and that police had not been made aware that they would be responsible for dealing with night-time complaints.

‘We are currently in discussion with Department of Environmental Health officials about how the RCIPS can support this activity,’ she said.

She said that by the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 12 hours after the ban began, police had not received any smoking-related complaints.

Unlike in some other jurisdictions where smoking bans have been introduced, including the UK, Ireland and New York, no hotline to report violations of the law has been set up in Cayman.

‘At present, there is no hotline number that members of the public can call if they witness someone smoking in a no smoking public zone,’ said Sheila Watler, administrative officer of health and environment at the Ministry of Health.

‘However, citizens may contact the Department of Environmental Health, or [the] police station within the respective district, that is, the district that the offence occurs in, to make a complaint about someone who is smoking in a no-smoking area and who refuses to [put] out their cigarette/tobacco product.’

She said any complaints made to the department would be passed onto police ‘so that the necessary action can be taken’.

The main responsibility of the six Department of Environmental Health officers tasked with enforcing the law will be to conduct routine inspections of registered business premises, she said, adding that the RCIPS ‘will see to it that citizens uphold the law’.

‘Therefore, persons may call the [police station in the] district… where they witness the offence taking place, if it is after normal business hours,’ she said.

People caught smoking in enclosed public places face a first-time fine of $2,000 and up to $10,000 for a subsequent offence, 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.

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 continues to be 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.

A government press release issued on New Year’s Eve reminded business owners that all smoke-free areas must be clearly marked and tobacco vendors must also display the necessary signs according to the law.

Sample signs are available from the Public Health Department. For more information call 244-2621. The law and regulations are also available on www.gov.ky

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