Jamaica lowers fines for smoking violations, will no longer give criminal record to those that violate tobacco regulations

LONDON , December 19, 2013 () – The Jamaica government soften its strong position on the ban on smoking announcing a number of 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," said Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson.

"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.

"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.

Dr Ferguson said that while recommendations would also come from a Parliamentary Committee and while he wants to be flexible, there will be strength behind the new regulations.

He said that in the amended Regulations, aspects to do with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) would 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."

Dr Ferguson explained that 'public place' and 'enclosed' would be redefined to ensure clarity.

He said smoke free places would 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.

He said owners and operators of businesses, including hotels and guest houses, along with those places established under the Public Health (Tourist Establishment) Regulations 2000, would 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," Dr Ferguson said, adding that the word 'ingredients' in the Regulations, will replace the term 'addictive', to ensure compliance in relation to the reporting obligation by the tobacco industry.

He said references to homes and private vehicles used for employment purposes would be removed.

"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.

Dr Ferguson said the Regulations would provide clarity in terms of where signs are to be displayed, and that the reference to "Government-owned" building or premises will be removed. But 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," Dr Ferguson added.

Source: Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website, Bridgetown, in English 1500 gmt 18 Dec 13

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