a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Anti-tobacco law in effect - The Trinidad Guardian

<< back to News index

Published February 14, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Health announced that some parts of the 2009 Tobacco Act would come into effect on Ash Wednesday. Doubtless, this timing was in the hope that some people, in the spirit of Lent, would give up smoking entirely. The bulk of smokers, however, will not stop smoking immediately, because the law is passed or Lent has started. It is thus important that they understand what impact the law will have on them. It is also important for owners of business places and employers to appreciate their obligations.

No smoking in enclosed place

Parts I and III (and some sections of Part II) of the Tobacco Act are set to come into effect. While Part I relates chiefly to definitions and the power of officers to search and so on, Part III more significantly deals with prohibitions that will now come into effect. Anyone who runs a business or rents out premises that operates a business will be affected by this law, and must familiarise himself with what are the prohibitions under the new act. Part III comprises 11 sections from Section 12 to Section 22.

Section 12 states:

“No person shall smoke or hold a lighted tobacco product in any enclosed public place, enclosed workplace, or public conveyance... “Where a person contravenes this law the manager, owner or lessee of the place where the contravention occurred, if he authorised or acquiesced in the act, is personally liable. “The liability is to a fine of $10,000 and six months’ imprisonment. What is an “enclosed” place? The act defines it thus: “Enclosed,” in relation to a space, means any space covered by a roof, completely or substantially enclosed, with the term substantially enclosed meaning more than 50 per cent closed to the outside air.

Therefore, outside verandahs, such as exist in some clubs or outside cafes, would not be considered enclosed, and smoking would be permissible in such places.

Public displays

The act also prohibits public displays or self-service of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Here is what it states:

“No person shall sell any tobacco product in such a way that a consumer may handle the product without the assistance of a sales clerk or other employee...prior to purchase. “Further, no person shall display tobacco products in such a way that they are visible to the public, but the prohibition against public displays of tobacco products shall not apply to individuals, incidentally or accidentally, displaying tobacco products during carrying or use.”

This means that cigarettes, for example, that are for sale, must not be visible to the public. They must also not be accessible to the public without the assistance of an employee. The combined effect of these laws is that any cigarettes that are for sale must be kept out sight and secure in, for instance, an area behind the counter or in somewhere that is locked. The law requires manufacturers or sellers to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products hidden from public sight in transporting or unloading these items. A minor may not sell tobacco products or purchase such products. A minor is a person under 18. Anyone, therefore, selling these products to a minor or hiring a minor to sell them is commits an offence.

Further, tobacco products may not be purchased through any self-service means, such as by mail, through the Internet, or automatic vending machines. Sale and use of cigarette sweets will no longer be legal. The act specifies that no one may (a) import or manufacture; or (b) sell, display for sale, distribute or supply, any sweets, snacks, toys or other non-tobacco items or objects in the form of tobacco products, or which imitate tobacco products.


Anyone who owns a T-shirt that promotes cigarette use or any company that manufactures or sells tobacco products must be careful whether and when they wear such clothing, come next Wednesday. The act provides: “No person shall initiate, produce, publish, engage or participate in any tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship.” Over the years, cigarette ads have decreased, but were not banned. Now,one may not engage in any form of tobacco sponsorship. Does this mean, then, that WITCO may not support its sports interest, since indirectly this will be promoting the company? How does this law impact in the name of such companies like the very WITCO, which stands for West Indian Tobacco Company? Some of these issues still need clarification.

Public awareness

The Ministry of Health has begun a public education programme which is actually mandated by the act. What is needed immediately, however, it seems to me, is some large billboards, proclaiming in succinct and simple terms what the law prohibits, from next Wednesday. People need to understand exactly what they may not do, otherwise the law will be observed more in the breach. Publication of the specific sections of the act that come into effect must be effected in some form that people will clearly appreciate. This is Carnival weekend, and the ministry will have a challenge. They had started off promisingly, by highlighting weeks ago, that Carnival will be free of the act which will come into force on Ash Wednesday.

That is something that will stick. Now, perhaps, they can get the word out in other forms of advertisements, even those connected to Carnival, if this is the way to get people to listen. The public must be made fully aware and conscious of the prohibitions relating to the sale and use of tobacco products.

<< back to News index