Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence today presented the first reading of the Tobacco Control Bill 2017-Bill No.5/2017 to the National Assembly.
The Bill entitled will provide for the adoption and implementation of tobacco control policies in accordance with the World Health Organisation/Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO/FCTC) to which Guyana acceded on September 2015.
The Bill aims to protect present and future generations from the diseases and addictions caused from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. It will also legislate against tobacco use by minors.
The Bill will also serve to prevent exposure of the public, especially minors, to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, while enhancing public awareness of the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The long awaited Tobacco Control Bill, which has been published in the Official Gazette, among other things, prohibits by law, the smoking of cigarettes and other tobacco products such as cigars in public places.
If found guilty, persons could face a fine of up to G$20,000 each time after being caught committing the offence a first time.
According to the Bill, the move is aimed at preventing exposure to second hand smoking. Offenders caught on the first occasion, according to the proposed legislation, will be liable on summary conviction of G$10,000. Each subsequent offence will carry a penalty of G$20,000.
According to the legislation, no person shall be permitted to smoke in any waiting area or queue in a public place, including but not limited to any public transport stop, bus stand or bus park.
Once brought into law, smoking will also be prohibited in any park, playground or amusement park; any stadium, arena or any kind of sport or performance place or any space for commercial service of food or drinks.
It shall also be illegal for persons to smoke in any area within five metres of a window, door or ventilation inlet to any public place or indoor work place.
Smoking shall also be prohibited anywhere on the premises of or within five metres from the outside boundary of any healthcare, educational or child care facility.
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Ettienne had also recently called on government to step up efforts in introducing the long awaited tobacco control legislation since it could be critical to reducing diseases that are the leading causes of death in Guyana.
According to information posted on the PAHO website, Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) -including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—account for 70 percent of deaths in Guyana and one-third of these deaths are premature (in people under 70).
Etienne said that tobacco, excessive alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main risk factors underlying this epidemic.
The PAHO director had called for “working together with different sectors of society and among different government ministries to reduce the burden of these diseases and save lives.”
Etienne said tobacco control is a good place to start to step up action against NCDs, since it is overall the leading risk factor for these diseases.
“We believe that tobacco taxes should be increased, tobacco packaging should feature strong warnings, and people should be protected from secondhand smoke.”
According to data released in recent years, although tobacco is acknowledged as a dangerous substance, at least 11 per cent of children in Guyana are regular smokers and at least 20 per cent of them began smoking before they were 10 years old.
First reading is the first stage of a Bill’s passage through the National Assembly. Usually a formality, it takes place without debate and usually takes place early in the parliamentary session.
The short title of the Bill is read out. The next stage is second reading, the first opportunity for the Member of Parliaments (MPs) to debate the general principles and themes of the Bill.
The second reading of the Tobacco Control Bill 2017 is scheduled for the 66th sitting of the National Assembly on Friday 16, 2017.