Health Minister Announces Proposed Changes to Tobacco Regulations

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson (left), giving an update on proposed amendments to be made to the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, which came into effect on July 15, 2013, at a briefing held at the National Health Fund (NHF), in New Kingston, today (December 17). Looking on is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Jean Dixon.

Story Highlights

  • Fines will be lowered and persons found in breach of the Tobacco Regulations will not be given a criminal record.
  • The ban on smoking in specified public places will remain in place.
  • In the amended Regulations, aspects to do with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) will be made clearer.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has announced a number of proposed amendments to the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, which came into effect on July 15, 2013.

“In respect of breaches by individuals, fines will be lowered and persons found in breach of the Tobacco Regulations will not be given a criminal record. However, the sanctions imposed will ensure compliance. Despite the concessions we have made, the ban on smoking in specified public places will remain in place,” the Minister said.

“Smoking will not be allowed in areas specifically used by children. Smoking will not be allowed in workplaces, including restaurants, bars, and clubs; and smoking will not be allowed in places of collective use by the public, such as bus stops,” he added.

Speaking on Tuesday, December 17, at a press briefing held at the National Health Fund (NHF), in New Kingston, Dr. Ferguson said that while recommendations will come from a Parliamentary Committee to be taken into account, and while he wants to be flexible, there will be strength behind the Regulations.

He said that in the amended Regulations, aspects to do with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) will be made clearer. “The Bureau of Standards Inspectors under the Standards Act will be included as authorized officers. Reference to ‘members of the JCF’ will be replaced by ‘Constable,’ to ensure greater enforcement by members of the Force in general,” the Minister noted.

Dr. Ferguson explained that ‘public place’ and ‘enclosed’ will be redefined to ensure clarity. Smoke free places will be clarified, including but not limited to all outdoor service and dining areas, indoor areas, parks, heritage sites, excluding their parking lots, gateways and driveways, the Minister said.

He outlined that owners and operators of businesses, including hotels and guest houses, along with those places established under the Public Health (Tourist Establishment) Regulations 2000, will be permitted to have outdoor smoking. “They must meet certain conditions which are prescribed under the Regulations. However, staff of these establishments will not be required to enter these areas,” the Minister emphasized.

Dr. Ferguson said the word ‘ingredients’ in the Regulations, will replace the term ‘additive’,  to  ensure compliance in relation to the reporting obligation by the Tobacco Industry;  and that the definition of ‘workplace’ will now applies to enclosed places, and reference to homes and private vehicles used for employment purposes will be removed.

The Minister pointed out that the requirement for the labelling of individual units of tobacco products will be removed from the Regulations. “Those engaged in the sale of individual units will be required to have a Graphic Health warning in place, in keeping with the specification under the First Schedule of the Regulations,” the Minister said.

On the display of no smoking signs, which was a major concern to the tourism sector, Dr. Ferguson said the Regulations will provide clarity in terms of where signs are to be displayed, and that the reference to “Government-owned” building or premises will be removed. The reference to Government occupied buildings will remain.

“I am encouraged by reports that we have had from our hospitals of a reduction in the number of children who have visited the facilities on several occasions for respiratory illnesses, since the Regulations came into force. The health of the Jamaican people remain non negotiable, and we will not relent on this,” the Minister declared.

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