More than four months after Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence signed off on the commencement order to enforce the Tobacco Control Act, players in the local Tobacco Industry are worried about the absence of the necessary regulations which they need to be compliant with the new legislation.
Management of the Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO), a major player in the local Tobacco industry, said that while it initially had some concerns with aspects of the draft legislation, now that it has become law the company is ready to be compliant.
However, DEMTOCO’s Managing Director Maurlain Kirton pointed out that after many failed tries, the company was able to finally get the Ministry to meet with them to iron out issues relating to the publication of the regulations, which the Minister has to prepare. But a date for that meeting is yet to be finalised.
According to the Managing Director, while the company has already gone ahead with works to be compliant with some aspects of the laws, they need the regulations to guide them before they can start taking actions towards becoming fully compliant.
“Some parts of the law require regulations, so the commencement act was signed and there are sections of the law that require regulations to be written” said Kirton who provided an example of placing graphic health pictures on new cigarette packages for sale.
She outlined that those graphic health pictures “requires a regulation where the Minister will specifically say this is the pool of images you need to use, this is the rotation period, this is how long the rotation will last for…those details are not contained in the legislation, so it’s the regulation relating to packaging that we are waiting on.”
The Company’s Managing Director also noted that there are others areas that require the regulations before going ahead.
The Tobacco Control Bill 2017 was passed by the National Assembly in July of that year.
The Bill 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 passed Bill 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.
In December of 2017, the Public Health Ministry had said that when the regulations for the packaging and labelling of tobacco products are passed, the industry will have nine months to comply.
It had also announced that as part of the phased implementation of the new legislation, an aggressive education and awareness campaign would have been launched in January of 2018 to sensitise the public of the new laws.