Aug 07, 2017 News
“Them people stupid. People got to smoke cigarette to ease their mind when they got stress…People still got to dead by something.” – Cigarette vendor
Guyanese appear to be divided about the impending Tobacco Bill, which will put stringent laws in place on the sale, advertising, and smoking of cigarettes.
Some are welcoming the measures, but others are already lamenting that it will impact on their livelihood.
Yet others remain ignorant of what the Bill entails.
When Kaieteur News sought views from individuals around Georgetown, tobacco sellers were, as expected, up in arms about the Bill.
Most contended the Bill would prevent them from earning “an honest living.”
Many said that they were doing this business for several years and their entire families are dependent on the income from their sales.
One vendor, who identified himself as ‘Sean,’ was dismissive of the Bill.
“Them people is stupid. People got to smoke cigarette to ease their mind when they got stress and all ah dem thing.” When he was questioned on the effects that this very ‘tension release’ substance has on surrounding people, he said, “People still got to dead by something.” He suggested that Government look into crime-related matters rather than bombard those who are partaking in legal activities.
‘Sean’ had a female supporter who said: “I think the people should smoke the tobacco or chew it because it has a lot of medicinal purposes.”
And ‘Winston,’ another vendor, said he has been selling cigarettes for over 18 years.
“I depend on it for a living. It (the bill) will affect everybody, not me alone because I got bills fo pay and chirren to send to school and when they ban this hay, is wah ah gon do? How ah gun live, how ah gun pay meh bills? This is the only means and ways, I aint got no other wuk ah could go and do.” When he was asked about the second hand smoke, he suggested that the Government set up buildings or sites with “sky high” chimneys to dispel the smoke safely.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Eros Thompson, a cigarette vendor for approximately 19 years.
“Is a lot ah thing they (Government) ain really study, because the bill gun cripple a lot of people.”
Colin McCalmon, 50, a distributor for 17 years said: “First thing, this build my house and right now I’m in a bank system where I have to pay. You know them foreign country is build certain things for them people go and smoke.” He stated that he is very worried about the fact that he is 50, and there is not anything out there that he might be able to do to earn for himself.
“They (government) should help people, not to deteriorate them and have them in poverty.”
A non-smoker, Kishauna Simon, said, “pertaining to bars and whatever, I think they can have a no smoking zone and a smoking zone because everyone does do different things to alleviate stress, tension..some persons smoke to ease their mind. It’s just a recreational activity or whatever, and if you take that away it can have dire effects on them and on society.”
While there are parts of the Bill that she supports, she also said Government needs to take into consideration the amount of revenue it will lose, if the Bill is to become law.
But ‘Mark,’ a beverage supplier at the 42 bus park said, “I think it’s awesome cause it gun bring a healthy society and will prevent one way of getting sick.” Pertaining to tobacco vendors, he said “They (government) should help them to cope with it.”
‘Nickesha,’ while enjoying her afternoon shopping said, “I think the bill sounds good, because they have a lot of individuals that usually be unprofessional with their smoking.” She said those that sell the product can always find some alternative livelihood.
Yet some vendors suggested that crime could escalate if their means of making a living is taken away.
“When the youths have nothing to do to earn a lil money, what you think they gun do?” Another said, “This thing hay suh does cool ya head, so when we can’t really use it anywhere, bannaz might trip and do things dem mighten even wan do.”
The Tobacco Control Bill, which was recently introduced in Parliament proposes a number of strict penalties and fines for law breakers.
It will allow for officers authorized by the Ministry of Public Health to be vested with the power to carry out any inspection, investigation or enforcement for the purposes of the Bill.
Any person who denies, obstructs or hinders an authorized officer in carrying out his or her duties; or knowingly makes any false or misleading statements, verbally or in writing, or refuses to provide requested information to an authorized officer, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $400,000 and imprisonment for six months.
Additionally, the Bill states that no person shall smoke in the following outdoor places— anywhere on the premises of and within five metres from the outside boundaries of any health care, educational or child care facility; any waiting area or queue in a public place, including but not limited to any public transport stop, bus stand or bus park; any park, playground or amusement park; any stadium, arena, or other kind of sport or performance space; any gazetted site of historic or national significance; any space for the commercial service of food or drink; or any other outdoor place prescribed by regulations.
The Bill also lists examples of indoor public places where smoking is now prohibited. These include Retail establishments, including stalls, stores, shops, and shopping malls; hotels and other places of lodging; restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, and other eating or drinking establishments, Gaming machine venues and casinos; Entertainment facilities including clubs, cinemas, concert halls, theatres, game arcades, pool and bingo halls.
Smoking, according to the Act, is also prohibited at any publicly-owned facility rented out for events and any other indoor premises accessible to the public and any indoor workplace.
Any person who smokes in any place where smoking is prohibited commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $10,000 for the first offence, and $20,000 for any second or subsequent offence.
Additionally, the Bill makes it clear that all cigarettes shall be sold in an intact package containing not less than twenty sticks or individual units per package. This brings an end to the sale of one or two cigarettes at regular outlets.
The Bill also states that no person shall go into any public place carrying any tobacco product, electronic delivery system, or component, in a tray, container or otherwise for the purpose of making sales or commercially displaying the product.
Furthermore, the Bill prohibits tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. In this regard, local night clubs would have to change for example, the manner in which they promote their hookah /smoking themed parties.
Should a corporation or other entity contravene any provision of the Act, it shall be deemed to have committed the offence and shall be held liable for all costs and fines associated with any enforcement or corrective action and for any term of imprisonment ordered.
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