Not too late to review tobacco bill – Demtoco

The Demerara Tobacco Company Limited (Demtoco) yesterday pledged to comply with the impending tobacco legislation but nonetheless urged that it be reviewed by a parliamentary select committee to address “contentious” issues.

“The Company would like to reiterate its support for the regulating of the tobacco industry and the government’s obligations under the Framework Convention in Tobacco Control, to which it’s a signatory, and to institute such legislation locally. We, however, remain very concerned that the bill in many clauses infringes on the rights of ordinary citizens and discriminates against many who are seeking to earn their livelihood from the trading of a legal product,” Demtoco’s Managing Director Maurlain Kirton said in a statement issued yesterday.

The statement followed Thursday’s passage of the landmark Tobacco Control Bill 2017, which will target smoking in indoor public places and ban advertising of tobacco products. Once enacted, it would also prohibit vendors from going into any public place carrying any tobacco product, electronic delivery system, or component, in a tray, container or otherwise to make sales or to commercially display the product.

Demtoco yesterday said it remained opposed to the ban of selling in trays, while adding that it was also “disappointed” that it was not given the “full opportunity… through formal consultations to advance our views, aimed principally at attaining balance and removing elements of discrimination and other measures that are too draconian in their nature.”

It said that although the bill is now passed and awaits final signature from the President, it is still not too late to send it to a Joint Select Committee of the National Assembly, where some of the “contentious issues” can be more robustly reviewed. It noted that this was done in Jamaica, after the government there passed a similar bill.

Nonetheless, Demtoco said it intends to comply with the new laws and will be making every effort to educate its trade and retail partners, consumers and the general public on compliance.

It emphasised to the consumers, the sellers and the distributors of cigarette products that the law does not come into effect until nine months after it is enacted. “So, it is business as usual while the company, industry and country prepare for an effective start-up date,” it added.

According to the bill’s explanatory memorandum, the purpose of the legislation is to fight the tobacco epidemic by implementing the evidence-based requirements of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Guyana acceded to on 15 September, 2005.

It provides for bans on smoking at all indoor workplaces, public transport and strictly regulates the sale of cigarettes while creating reporting requirements for manufacturers, wholesale distributors or importers. Further, penalties for various offences range as high as $9 million and a period of imprisonment, while it will also see pictorial and health warnings having to be placed on at least 60% of the packaging on tobacco products.

Persons would also be prohibited from smoking in any area within five metres from a window or doorway to any indoor public place or workplace; anywhere on the premises of and within five 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, bus stands and bus parks.

Smoking would also not be allowed at parks, playgrounds and amusement parks; a stadium, arena, or any kind of sports or performance space; any designated site of historic or national significance; a space for the service or consumption of food or drink; and any other outdoor space specified in regulations. Any person who smokes in a place where smoking is prohibited can be fined $10,000 for the first offence and $20,000 for the second offence.

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