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Law takes light out of cigarettes today - Stiff penalties for those who sell, smoke in public

Published:Monday | July 15, 2013 | 12:00 AM

 Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

For years, 52-year-old Selvin and his brethren would gather on a Friday evening at the bar in their community to unwind. Armed with cigarettes, drinks and the topic of the week, this was always their favourite form of relaxation and de-stressing.

Effective today, all that has changed. Anyone caught smoking in public and enclosed spaces can be arrested and fined up to $500,000 or one year in prison.

"That can't right. Afta wi nah trouble nobody. Everybody in yah smoke. What a bunch a man inna a bar a drink and smoke and talk have to do wid nobody?" he asked, as The Gleaner made the rounds to see how the new law would impact some of those it would most affect.

For 46-year-old Trevor, who has been smoking for more than 20 years, the only thing that relieves the stress of a mundane, low-wage job and seven children is to sit by himself in his neighbourhood bar, buy a beer, light up a cigarette, and play the poker box.

"Poor people under stress and now di Government want to tek weh the only t'ing dem have to relax, plus dem waan pressure dem even more fi mek a big money offa dem jus' because dem a smoke a cigarette fi calm dem nerves," he lamented.

His friend chimed in: "Tell dem fi guh look fi di gun dem cause di man who smoke nah kill nobody."

On Friday, the Ministry of Health released the detailed proclamations, rules and regulations of the new law, in its bid to protect the health of Jamaicans, especially the vulnerable.

The rules

Jamaica now joins more than 100 countries across the world that have instituted a no-smoking law in public places. This means smoking or holding a lit or electronic tobacco or tobacco product is prohibited in or within a five-metre radius of:

Any enclosed space,

Public transportation,

Workplaces or any place of employment,

Government buildings,

Health facilities including pharmacies; sport, athletic and recreational facilities for use of the public;

Educational institutions;

Areas specifically for use by children,

Places of collective use, such as bus stops.

Additionally, owners, managers and lessees of any of these premises must prominently display no-smoking signs, according to stipulated regulations, at the entrance as well as a secondary location. Failure to do so shall be considered an offence under the law.

Under the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013 of the Public Health Act, first offenders can be fined $50,000 or three months in prison, while a second offence attracts $500,000 or six months in prison. Following that, a repeat offender may be imprisoned for 12 months.