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July 19, 2013
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Ministry clarifies public places in smoking ban

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (centre) emphasises a point while addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) 'Think Tank' on Tuesday. Flanking him are executive director, Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Deborah Chen (left) and legal counsel, Ministry of Health, Sheryl Dennis. - JIS Photo

The Ministry of Health has clarified the term 'public places', as it continues its thrust to educate the public about the new Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013, which ban smoking in public places. The Regulations came into effect on Monday.

The Public Health (Tobacco Regulations) 2013 stipulate that individuals should not inhale or exhale emissions of the ignited tobacco or tobacco products within a five-metre radius of the entrance, exit, window or area of ventilation of a public place.

Speaking at a JIS 'Think Tank' on Tuesday, legal officer at the Ministry, Sheryl Dennis, said the designation of a public place has been properly crafted within the legislation and is defined as "any structure, facility or enclosed space that is accessible to the public".

A 'public place', Dennis said, can also be any place of assembly or any place of collective use by the public. She also pointed out that an 'enclosed' place refers to any space that is covered by a roof, or enclosed by one or more walls or sides, regardless of whether the structure is permanent or temporary.

Under the Second Schedule of the Regulations, smoking is prohibited or banned on public conveyances, all government-owned and occupied buildings, and health facilities, including pharmacies.

Smoking is also not allowed in sports, athletic and recreational facilities designated for public use, educational institutions, bus stops, as well as areas specifically for use by children.

Dennis advised that smoking is also prohibited in work places, as one of the ministry's roles is to protect and safeguard the health and well-being of workers in keeping with the occupational safety and health act.

The legal officer said a work place "is any space that is used by someone for employment purposes, or in their trade or business". Continuing, she noted that a home can also be classified as a workplace, where a helper, gardener, painter, or any other person is contracted to carry out services for an 'employer' during a given timeframe.

"We are of the view that a person should not have to choose between their health and their employment," Dennis emphasised.

She also pointed out that there is a particular section in the Tobacco Regulations that "provides that where an employee is, or has been disadvantaged in any way by virtue of taking steps to protect his or her health, then the employer can be held liable in that regard".

Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson reiterated at the 'Think Tank', that the ban on smoking in public places aims to protect children, non-smokers and workers, and that its introduction was not a sudden decision by the Government.

Rather, the minister said the move by the government is in keeping with international obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that was signed in 2003 by Jamaica and other countries worldwide.

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