Three arrested for smoking at Sumfest
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Three smokers who ignored reminders by the police were arrested during last Thursday Dancehall Night at Reggae Sumfest 2013.
Several other smokers were let off with a reminder by the cops that the new smoking ban makes it illegal to smoke at events such as the music festival held in Montego Bay, St James.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke said the three smokers were among 30 persons arrested as some of the dancehall's finest entertainers performed.
According to Clarke, the three smokers were repeatedly warned, but chose to defy the instructions given by the security personnel.
Their arrest follows the implementation of the smoking ban by the Ministry of Health, which took effect July 15.
According to Summerfest Production's security manager, Robin Russell, no-smoking signs were erected throughout the venue, and although on Thursday several persons had to be cautioned, by the first International Night on Friday, most of the patrons were aware that the police meant business.
He pointed out that the rules did not go down well with smokers attending the festival, particularly those who have supported it over the years.
"The smokers felt they had lost. They are accustomed to coming to Reggae Sumfest and being able to smoke, and now felt the rules were draconian."
According to Russell, even non-smokers who are happy for the ban were of the opinion that an open-air event such as Reggae Sumfest should not have been affected so severely.
Gone too Far
Media producer Damali Kai Little-White Lorenz, a patron at the festival, agreed with Russell, stating that in bringing Jamaica in line with international norms of smoking regulations, the Government may have gone too far and should consider the backlash of abrupt implementation.
"The economic fall-off locally, and impact on tourists not used to these more restrictive tobacco regulations, could lead to a review of the ban," she argued.
Little-White went further questioning why tobacco, which is still being sold in pharmacies throughout the country, carries harsher fine than the illegal marijuana.
"The ban, as perceived by the public, is more restrictive than what is in place in countries with existing smoking bans for 10-plus years," she argued.
Under the new law, persons who breach the regulations governing the ban on smoking in public spaces can be fined up to $500,000 or spend six months in prison for their actions.