…before it becomes law
Demerara Tobacco Company Limited has taken its advocacy to the highest office of the land, calling on President David Granger to step in and forestall making the Tobacco Control Bill a law unless certain provisions in the bill are changed.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the company noted that the government used the passage of the bill in other countries as justification for the new bill in Guyana. But Demtoco said that the countries that were cited have actually implemented less stringent laws than the ones passed in the national assembly last month.
The company pointed out that both Trinidad and Jamaica have no provisions in their bills which designate a person’s private home as a workplace under any circumstances. In addition, the company emphasised that both countries included provisions in their bills to allow outdoor designated smoking areas.
“Both Jamaica and Trinidad removed the provision from their Bills, which included a person’s private home as a workplace if that owner were to employ a gardener, a helper or some other help around their home,” the company stated. “Those countries viewed the guaranteeing of the right of the privacy of one’s home as a fundamental principle.”
Demtoco pointed out that neither country sought to bar previous employees in the tobacco industry from working with the government. Noting that the bill will impact on retailers of a legal product, the company said that the government can regulate the industry in a more reasonable manner.
The company therefore echoed the calls of the private sector and other stakeholders that the bill be sent to a committee. In addition, it called on the President to intervene and have any excessive measures removed.
Trinidad banned public smoking in 2010, while Jamaica followed suit three years later. In Guyana, while the need for the bill was supported by most, several of its clauses have been deemed excessive.
Within days of its passage, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) had come out urging the government to consider the civil rights aspect of the bill. The commission had stressed that the bill be referred to the Special Select Committee.
Among the provisions of the bill is a ban on smoking in indoor workplaces; public transport, stadiums, parks and national sites. In the bill, smoking is also prohibited in any area within five metres of a health care, educational or child care facility.
Part Five, section 16 (3) states “Any person who smokes in any place where smoking is prohibited commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars for the first offence, and twenty thousand dollars for any second or subsequent offence.”
The bill provides for a number of other fines and penalties, ranging from $200,000 and six months imprisonment. Corporate bodies can also face fines of up to $9M for infringing on the ban regarding advertising.
It also provides for the creation of a National Tobacco Control Council that will provide advice to the Minister of Public Health.