Health Minister meets with DEMTOCO over tobacco control laws

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A meeting between officials from the Ministry of Public Health and representatives and lawyers of the Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO), today, sought to clarify specific areas of enforcement of Guyana’s Tobacco control legislation.

The team from the Ministry of Public Health who met with representatives of the tobacco industry

The meeting spearheaded by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence was convened with the industry to ensure compliance with the new laws.

Clarity was sought on the publishing of the commencement order. It was outlined that regulations from the law regarding the packaging and labelling of tobacco products will be issued by the ministry shortly, giving the tobacco industry nine months to comply with the detailed regulations.

During the meeting it was clarified that the industry will be restricted from advertising tobacco brands, promoting products with their brands and sponsoring events of any kind. Further, public displays of tobacco products for commercial use is also prohibited.

It was also pointed out that since the law is already enforced, the clause that prohibits smoking in public places and public transportation must be observed. This section of the legislation protects persons from second-hand smoke.

DEMTOCO’s lawyers and executives who met with the team from the Ministry of Public Health

Minister Lawrence detailed that any act assented to by the president is “live and legal.” Therefore, the tobacco industry is expected to comply in detail with various aspects of this regulation.

President David Granger assented to the bill in July 2017 however, the commencement order was issued on December 15, 2017, by the Public Health Minister.

“We are not hiding behind legislation, instead, the intention is to move forward in a positive direction and have the full compliance of the tobacco industry,” Minister Lawrence stated.

DEMTOCO’s Managing Director, Maurlain Kirton, had earlier said that the meeting with the Minister is to address some of the issues they have as it relates to the legislation.

“There are six key areas which concern us; one of which is the ban on vending or in trays, the issue of the ban on 10s, the issue on the ban on sponsorship and promotion, the issue of the ban on corporate branding because the legislation extends itself beyond product branding but our corporate brand that has been around for 84 years is also threatened,” she had noted.

The Managing Director said the intention of that meeting is to ensure that DEMTOCO continues to exist and adapt to the legislation but stressed the need for enforcement.

The law bans smoking at all indoor workplaces and certain outdoor places such as in any waiting area or queue in a public place, including but not limited to any public transport stop, bus stand or bus park.

The law will also clampdown on the advertising campaigns that have been launched by tobacco companies over the years.

The legislation will be enforced by the application of several penalties in the form of fines and prison sentences for ‘certain transgressions’. These range from a fine of $200,000 dollars for persons who breach the new regulations, along with 6 months imprisonment, to fines for business entities of up to $9 million dollars.

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