The Ministry of Public Health yesterday said that a phased implementation of the Tobacco Control Act is underway and next month will see an “aggressive” education and awareness campaign.
In a statement yesterday, the Ministry said it wished to correct misrepresentations in the media that smoking is banned in public under the Tobacco Control Act.
“The Act provides for a ban on smoking in indoor public places, indoor work places and public transportation, and only in specified outdoor places including the premises of schools and health facilities, and places for the commercial service of food and drinks. The Tobacco Control Act regulates where persons can smoke tobacco products in order to protect others from exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke, but it does not ban smoking”, the statement noted.
It pointed out that in August 2017, the Tobacco Control Act became law after passage by the National Assembly and assent by the President. It said that the Minister of Public Health was empowered under the Act to provide the commencement date upon which the laws will become effective. In order to facilitate the phased implementation of the Act and the publication of regulations under the Act, including those for ‘no smoking’ signs and packaging and labelling of tobacco products, the release said that the Minister has assigned the commencement date for the Tobacco Control Act as 11th December, 2017.
Initially, enforcement will focus on the tobacco industry. The Ministry, the release said, will meet with the tobacco industry in January 2018 to inform them of the implementation of the complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Once regulations for tobacco products’ packaging and labelling are passed, the tobacco industry will have nine months to comply with the regulations. The Ministry will advise the public as implementation of the various aspects of the law take effect.
The release said that the Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has already started training implementing agencies in relation to implementation of the Act. The release said that Ministry of Public Health staff are being trained to take the campaign to the business community including vendors, and the public at large.
“Beginning next month, the nation will see the roll out of an aggressive education and awareness campaign, and by late 2018, tobacco product packages will bear graphic health warnings which inform consumers about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke”, the statement said.
It pointed out that the Tobacco Control Act provides for a maximum fine of $10,000 for a person who smokes in a place where smoking is prohibited. Where the person commits the offence again, the maximum fine is $20,000. No imprisonment is prescribed for the offence.
The release added that enforcement of no smoking laws in places where smoking is prohibited will not be done until the publication of ‘no-smoking’ signs regulations and sensitization with the business community so that they understand their role with regard to compliance.