Guyana is closer to strict laws on tobacco use, which now include proposals for a ban on public smoking and controls on advertising.
The Tobacco Control Bill, now in draft form is in line with the requirements contained in the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Guyana acceded to in September 2005.
According to Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy, the legislation, which has been five years in the making, is closer to completion. He said it is expected to be taken to parliament next year. Currently, there is need for more consultations, he explained, noting that it is critical to the formulation of the document, before it would be taken to Cabinet for approval.
“We have to talk to people, so it is a long arduous process, but hopefully we would have a good legislation,” Ramsammy told Stabroek News recently.
According to the draft, the legislation is aimed at protecting present and future generations from the “devastating harms” of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, and specifically to prevent tobacco use by youth and to protect workers and the public from exposure to tobacco smoke.
The youth demographic was recently singled out as being particularly vulnerable, with the Guyana Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) for 2010 finding that more than one in five students currently use a form of tobacco—9.5 per cent of students currently smoke cigarettes and 14.8 per cent use some other form of tobacco. The survey also said 11.4 per cent of Guyanese youths who are non-smokers, are likely to initiate smoking next year.
In addition to protections from tobacco use, the legislation would also seek to ensure the public is protected from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, while preventing illicit trade in tobacco products.
In doing so, the draft says the “rights of non-smoking members of the public and workers” are to be paramount in all considerations. “…Any question that may arise as to whether smoking is permitted in any given situation shall be resolved in favour of protecting non-smokers’ rights enshrined in the National Constitution and International conventions ratified by Guyana,” it notes.
The law would place tough restrictions on areas in which persons will be permitted to smoke.
Persons would be prohibited from smoking in any part of any enclosed workplace; in any part of any enclosed public place; in or on any means of public transport, whether or not it is carrying a member of the public; and in or on any means of transportation at the time transporting a minor.
Persons would also be prohibited from smoking also in any area within eight metres from a window or doorway to any public place or workplace; anywhere on the premises of and eight metres from the boundaries of any health care, educational and child care facilities; and in any waiting area or queue, including but not limited to public transport stops, and taxi and bus stands.
Smoking would also not be allowed on the premises of any place that caters primarily to minors, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds and amusement parks; a stadium, arena, or any kind of sports or performance space; a historic or other site of archaeological or national significance; a space for the service or consumption of food or drink; places where people are likely to congregate within close proximity to each other; places where smoking may pose a fire or other hazard; and any other outdoor space specified in regulations.
Among the penalties proposed is a fine of not less than ten thousand dollars for persons who smoke in any place in which smoking is prohibited on summary conviction, and a fine of not less than twenty thousand dollars on subsequent convictions.
Further, where a person smokes in violation of the law, the person responsible for the premises where the offence took place would be liable to penalty if he or she authorised or acquiesced in the act or knew or, using due diligence, ought to have known that the unlawful smoking was taking place. A fine of not less than thirty thousand dollars, and on subsequent convictions a fine of not less than fifty thousand dollars, is proposed for such an offence.
Additionally, it is also proposed that any person who does not exhibit the required signage under the law would be held as having committed an offence and would be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than fifteen thousand dollars and on subsequent convictions to a fine of not less than double the amount of the previous fine.
The law would also control the way tobacco is advertised in Guyana. It proposes that no person shall initiate any tobacco advertising, promotion, or sponsorship; produce or publish any tobacco advertising, promotion, or sponsorship content; or engage or participate in any tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship as media or event organiser, celebrity or other participant, or as a recipient of any sponsorship contribution or intermediary that facilitates any such contribution.
It states that where a person involved in the dissemination of communications content becomes or reasonably should become aware of any tobacco content and where such person is in a position to control the publication or dissemination of the content, that person shall remove the prohibited content or take reasonable efforts to disable access to it, when technically possible.
This specific section would apply to all domestic and cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship and to tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship initiated, produced, published, disseminated, engaged or participated in by a national of Guyana in another territory.
Further, no person would be allowed to manufacture, sell, offer for sale, supply, and import or export any tobacco product that is not packaged and labelled in a manner that complies with the requirements of the law. Additionally, it envisages that the minister of health may, as required to monitor compliance with the law, require tobacco manufacturers and sellers, with the exception of retailers, to submit samples of all packaging and labelling.
The draft also contemplates that no person shall sell a tobacco product to a minor or employ or use a minor to sell, handle or light a tobacco product. Further, prior to any tobacco product sale, the seller shall verify the age of the purchaser by checking a national identification card or passport. Retail sellers of tobacco products would also have to display at their places of sale signage stating that tobacco sales to minors are not allowed. The law would also prohibit persons from sale, import, manufacture, display for sale, or supply of any sweets, snacks, toys, or other non-tobacco items or objects in the form of tobacco products, or which imitate tobacco products.
It is also proposed that no person would sell a tobacco product over the telephone, internet, through the mail or by any other means where the seller and purchaser are not in the same physical location. The sale of a tobacco product through an automatic vending machine would also be prohibited.
Under the law, the minister would also be authorised to require manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to submit periodically reports on tobacco product contents and emissions, which shall be tested by the method and in the manner prescribed by the regulations. The minister will also be authorized to specify the information required in such reports and how the information is to be reported.