North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller is asking why authorities in the Cayman Islands aren’t taking legal action against the Caymanian Compass for running liquor advertisements in the newspaper.
Cayman Free Press Managing Director Brian Uzzell said, “This issue has been raised several times over the years. Clients of Cayman Free Press who advertise in the Caymanian Compass or any print media are not included in the definition of broadcast and are not in breach of the provisions of the Tobacco Product and Intoxicating Liquor Advertising Law.”
In a 14 January letter addressed to the director of public prosecutions, Mr. Miller writes, “I am requesting that you inform me of the legal authority that allows the police, the Liquor Licensing Board and your office to ignore the provisions of The Tobacco Product and Intoxicating Liquor Advertising law (21 of 1986).”
In his letter, Mr. Miller cites the following section of the law: “No advertising concerning tobacco products or intoxicating liquor shall be broadcast from within the Islands or shown on any cinematograph display”.
Whoever contravenes that section of the law “is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars”.
‘Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines’
The law to which Mr. Miller refers was amended by The Tobacco Law, 2008, and is now called the Intoxicating Liquor Advertising Law (1998 Revision). The 2008 Tobacco Law includes provisions against advertising tobacco products and removed provisions in the Intoxicating Liquor Advertising Law that mention tobacco.
Mr. Miller notes that the law defines “advertisement” as “(a) every visual form of advertising, whether or not accompanied by spoken words or other sounds; (b) any broadcast or cinematography display; or any public announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting light or sound; and (c) any hoarding or similar structure used or adapted for use for the display of advertisements”.
Mr. Miller writes, “A casual walk around George Town or review of the local newspaper will reveal many contraventions of this law and the potential for the Government to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. “These are fines that should be collected through the enforcement of this law and would do well to fund the National Drug Council and their programmes to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse.”
He writes, “The liquor companies know the value of these illegal advertisements and that they are very effective as a review of the last several years of the surveys done by the National Drug Council will indicate that the average age of alcohol consumption is trending downward, while liquor distributors both wholesale and retail reap the benefits.
“I have consistently raised this matter of the illegal advertising of Intoxicating liquor in several forums, including the Legislative Assembly, the Rooster talk show and in the media without any success, so I have to assume that there is some legal authority of which I am not aware, which allows this to continue.” He writes, “I am reluctant to conclude that the frequency with which the police and your office enforce the Marine Conservation law and the Misuse of Drugs law, which I entirely support, while not enforcing the tobacco product and intoxicating liquor law or the legal practitioners law is selective law enforcement because those who contravene these two latter laws have the resources to challenge their enforcement.”
Mr. Miller writes, “The effects of the continued “turning a blind eye” on the liquor establishments and the media outlets that facilitate them maybe even worse as it is a scientific fact that alcohol is the most frequently used ‘gateway’ drug and it is counter productive to allow the liquor establishments to overcome the setbacks caused to their sales by those who promote through education a reduction in the consumption of alcohol. “The terrible effects of alcohol abuse on our society are well documented and supported by scientific research and is what prompted the Members of the Legislative Assembly to pass the Tobacco product and intoxication liquor advertising law in 1986,” he added. “I ought to know as I was a member in 1986 when the law was passed.”
Radio, TV, cinema
The law clearly states that no advertisements for liquor shall be broadcast within the Cayman Islands or shown in the cinema.
Mr. Miller’s letter does not include the definition of the word “broadcast”, which, according to the law, “means a broadcast by wireless telegraphy by way of sound broadcasting or television of sounds or visual images intended for general reception, whether the sounds or images are actually received by any person or not”.
The law does not define “wireless telegraphy”, but the usual contemporary sense of the phrase is to describe transmission by radio waves.
During the debate in the Legislative Assembly over the passage of the bill in 1986, Bodden Town MLA Haig Bodden lamented that the bill excluded newspaper advertising.
“The bill before the House is a phony,” said Mr. Bodden, according to Official Hansard Report. He noted that neither the government-owned Radio Cayman nor the movie theatre had run tobacco or liquor advertisements for some time.
Mr. Bodden said, “Yet, the bill does not seek to prohibit the advertising in newspapers, why? Is it because the government is afraid of the editor of the one newspaper? Is it because they are afraid of his editorials? Is it because they would hurt the man whom they recently gave Caymanian status to? Or, are they afraid that he will come out against them and may spoil their image for the next election?”
Health Minister Benson Ebanks said the bill seeks “to prohibit all advertising of tobacco products and intoxicating liquor on radio and television broadcast from within the Islands, and at cinematographic displays”.
George Town MLA Linford Pierson said, “While this bill deals primarily with the prohibition of advertising of tobacco products and intoxicating liquor on radio and television broadcasts from within the Islands, and at cinematographic displays, I feel Sir, that it is unfortunate that it did not go beyond this” – to include restrictions on smoking in public places.
Mr. Bodden said, “How can they bring a law so bias, seeking to stop advertisements in the radio, when the radio does not accept advertisements for liquor and cigarettes, seeking to stop advertising in the cinema, when the cinema does not accept advertisements, yet not seeking to stop advertisements in the newspaper, where they appear daily? How can we be so phony?”
The bill passed with 13 ayes and no nays. West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush and Mr. Miller both voted in favour of the bill.