Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, is adamant that the ban on smoking in specified public places, which becomes effective on Monday, July 15, will not be overturned.
“Let me make it clear that we will not reverse this decision, because I believe it is right for Jamaica. I stand by my position, which I maintain is pro-health and not just anti-smoking,” the Minister stated on Monday morning (July 15), at a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Dr. Ferguson, in his Sectoral presentation on June 25, announced the ban, and the implementation of the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013.
As of July 15, there will be a penalty attached to smoking in public places. Businesses and other entities, as described in the regulations, will be legally required to post No Smoking signs at the front of their establishments and in other appropriate areas.
No Smoking signs can be downloaded from the Ministry of Health’s website at: moh.gov.jm
While the ban becomes effective on July 15, the Government has granted a six-month compliance period so that the police, members of the public and managers of certain establishments, can become acquainted with the regulations.
Dr. Ferguson noted that the six-month period is not a pass for people to continue smoking in public places, but rather, to put the necessary systems in place to become compliant.
Areas designated as no smoking spaces include all enclosed places accessible to the public; public transportation; workplaces; Government-owned and occupied buildings; health facilities including pharmacies; sports and recreational facilities for use by the public; educational institutions; areas specifically for use by children; and places of collective use such as bus stops.
The regulations also stipulate that graphic health warnings are placed on packages containing tobacco products. “We will be working with the respective persons to ensure that steps are taken to comply with this aspect of the law within the next six months,” Dr. Ferguson said.
The Health Minister also sought to clarify that the Government has not banned smoking and has no intention of trampling on the rights of citizens, who enjoy the practise.
“What we have done is ban smoking in specific areas accessible to the public to reduce the ill and unwanted effects of tobacco exposure on the worker, our children, non-smokers and other persons who may not wish to be exposed to second hand smoke,” he explained.
In the meantime, Legal Officer, Ministry of Health, Sheryl Dennis, advised that the penalties under the regulation will include a fine of up to $50,000 or three months in prison or both on a first conviction. Where there is a second conviction a person may be fined up to $500,000 or six months in prison or both and on a third conviction, an individual may receive up to 12 months in prison.
“When we speak of first, second and third conviction, we’re talking about if the offence has been committed two times. So if there is a second offence and there is a conviction that is where the penalty of up to $500,000 or six months in prison will lie,” she explained.
Ms. Dennis further informed that “a judge really has the latitude to impose those sentences, so there is no minimum, but there is actually a ceiling.”
Other countries in the region that have instituted a ban on smoking in enclosed and specified public places include Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.