Phased Implementation of Tobacco Control Act – starting with the tobacco industry compliance
Ministry of Public Health, Wednesday, December 27, 2017 – The Ministry of Public Health wishes to correct misrepresentations in the media that smoking is banned in public under the Tobacco Control Act. The Act provides for a ban on smoking in indoor public places, indoor workplaces and public transportation, and only in specified outdoor places including the premises of schools and health facilities, and places for the commercial service of food and drinks. The Tobacco Control Act regulates where persons can smoke tobacco products in order to protect others from exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke, but it does not ban smoking.
In August 2017, the Tobacco Control Act became law after passage by the National Assembly and assent by the President. The Minister of Public Health was empowered under the Act to provide the commencement date upon which the laws will become effective. In order to facilitate the phased implementation of the Act and the publication of regulations under the Act, including those for ‘no smoking’ signs and packaging and labelling of tobacco products, the Minister has published the commencement date for the Tobacco Control Act as December 11, 2017.
Initially, enforcement will focus on the tobacco industry. The Ministry will meet with the tobacco industry in January 2018 to inform them of the implementation of the complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Once regulations for tobacco products’ packaging and labelling are passed, the tobacco industry will have nine months to comply with the regulations. The Ministry will inform the public as the implementation of the various aspects of the law take effect.
The Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has already started training implementing agencies in regard to the implementation of the Act. The Ministry of Public Health staff are being trained to take the sensitisation to the business community including vendors, and the public at large. Beginning next month, the nation will see the rollout of an aggressive education and awareness campaign, and by late 2018, tobacco product packages will bear graphic health warnings which inform consumers about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The Tobacco Control Act provides for a maximum fine of $10,000 for a person who smokes in a place where smoking is prohibited. Where the person commits the offence a subsequent time, the maximum fine is $20,000. No imprisonment is prescribed for the offence.
Enforcement of no smoking laws in places where smoking is prohibited will not be implemented until the publication of ‘no-smoking’ signs regulations and sensitization with business community so that they understand their role with regard to compliance.
Tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, along with the harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition, are the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Guyana.
Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence noted recently that some 57 percent of Guyanese adults suffer from some kind of the main NCDs and of these “approximately 70 percent” of people between the ages of 35 and 60 die annually from either heart disease or hypertension, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung disease.
Implementation of tobacco control measures will significantly reduce the number of lives affected by death, disease and disability caused by the tobacco epidemic.