SMOKERS who light up in public spaces today, in breach of the smoking ban, could be let off with just a warning for now, as the police themselves seek to get acquainted with the new law.
Jamaica today joins fellow Caribbean Community (Caricom) states Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, as well as countries in Europe, Canada and the United States, in instituting a ban on smoking in enclosed and specifically prescribed public spaces.
Glenmore Hinds, the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations, said law enforcers will not be going in search of people breaking the smoking ban, as it wants the sensitisation campaign to roll out first.
“It is a new law and so it will take some time for us to understand, and so we are studying it to see the implications,” Hinds told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
According to Hinds, public education and compliance will play a key role in this new legislation, even as he expressed optimism that people will comply.
“What is required is public education and once the public has been sensitised, then the police will look at enforcing the law,” he said.
Until then, Hinds made it clear that the police will have the discretion, to let persons off with a warning, given that it will be considered a minor offence.
“Like in most other instances, the police will use discretion but again that will be dependent on the individual officer,” Hinds said, adding that the police should be given more credit for the amount of discretion that is given in cases of minor offences.
“If we were to enforce all the laws, when you take for example the traffic laws, many of us wouldn’t be driving on the road,” he said, noting that the Jamaican police are among the most tolerant when it comes to minor offences.
He explained further that the police would take action against persons who breach the smoking ban, when they either view the act being committed or on the complaint of a third person.
“… So the police won’t be going on a drive to apprehend persons smoking in public,” he reiterated.
Meanwhile, local cigarette company, Carreras, yesterday called on the police to acquaint themselves with the law.
“We also urge the commissioner of police to get his officers fully conversant with the facts of the law, so that entities and individuals who have a legal right to consume a legal product will not be harassed and victimised,” the company said in a release yesterday.
The company also urged its consumers to adhere to the law, while urging the Ministry of Health not to continue rolling out the new law in a “cloud of mystery and secrecy”.
Carreras, however, pointed out that there was not a 100 per cent ban on smoking. “What it means is that adult smokers must continue to self-regulate and make every effort to adhere to the law, understanding where they can smoke,” the Carreras release said.
The cigarette company said it was clear that, based on these regulations, adults who have taken the decision to smoke, can do so in various open public spaces and outdoors once it is not a place named in the regulations.
“In fact, while it is clear that smoking rooms are not allowed in enclosed buildings, entities such as bars, restaurants and night clubs can set up outdoor unenclosed smoking areas that are clearly demarcated. Simply put, and as is done in several countries across the world. Smokers in enclosed establishments can step outside, away from the entrance to smoke and then return indoors,” the company said.
Carreras said it will also be undertaking its own public education campaign to effectively communicate the dos and don’ts of the law.
Enclosed places, public transportation, workplaces, Government-owned and occupied buildings, health facilities, including pharmacies, sports and recreational facilities for use by the public, educational institutions, areas specifically for use by children and places of collective use, such as bus stops, are among the places where smoking will now be permitted.