Cigar bars exempt from ban

| 14/09/2008

(CNS): The revised tobacco bill has, contrary to the wishes of health advocacy groups, given cigar bars an exemption from the smoking ban that the government has been proposing to introduce and has also left beaches as smoking zones. Presented to the Legislative Assembly last week, the long-awaited revised bill has changed significantly from the legislation that was first proposed.

 Although the Cayman Islands Cancer Society (CICS) and the Cayman Heart Fund have welcomed the bill itself, they say they both have concerns, especially with the exemption of cigar bars, which the organisations say have not been properly defined.

“While we would have liked to have seen stricter controls on the display of tobacco products, we are particularly concerned with the exemptions to the prohibition of use of tobacco products in certain public places,” said the CICS in a statement. “We are concerned that we will see a sudden increase in the number of cigar bars. In some jurisdictions, to be classified as a cigar bar a certain percentage of an enterprise’s revenue has to be derived from the sale of cigars. We fervently hope that action will be taken to avoid an increase in the number of businesses licensed as cigar bars.”

The society also noted that from a health perspective cigars give off greater amounts of secondhand smoke than cigarettes, with many of the same toxic and carcinogenic substances as cigarettes but in higher concentrations. The exemption for cigar bars is dependent on a smoke extractor or ventilator system being installed, but the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has said the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity.

“No other engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation or air cleaning technologies, have demonstrated or should be relied upon to control health risks from ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) exposure in spaces where smoking occurs,” ASHRAE said in a policy statement  in 2006. The CICS noted that ventilation systems can remove the smell and sight of tobacco smoke but cannot remove the toxic substances in the air.

The health advocacy groups also said they were disappointed that outdoor bars and restaurants are exempt provided they designate no-smoking areas within the facility. As research suggests that non-smokers can still be affected outside when sitting a few yards from a smoker, the society said it hoped provision would be made for the smoking and no-smoking sections to have a buffer of a minimum of ten feet. CICS added that while “parks” are listed in the schedule of public places where smoking will not be permitted, it had noted the omission of beaches.

“Both parks and beaches are places where persons, including children, gather and in this regard we believe that if parks are to be included in the schedule then beaches should likewise be included,” said CICS.

Despite these various concerns, the society and the Heart Fund both acknowledged that the bill appears to comprehensively address issues relating to minors and the labelling, promotion, sale and distribution of tobacco products.

“We are pleased to see the legislation moving forward, despite the fact that it is not as comprehensive as we would have desired,” added CICS. “We hope that our elected officials lead Cayman in the direction of many of the world’s nations and pass the proposed bill into law without further delay. It is time for Cayman to have such legislation in place.”



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