Heavy Penalties for Smoking in Public

SMOKERS will have to fork out N$500 or face one month in prison if they are caught smoking in public places as from 1 April, in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act, government announced yesterday.

During the launch of the Tobacco Products Control Regulation Act at a stakeholders’ meeting, the minister of health and social services, Richard Kamwi, announced that smoking in public venues will be prohibited as per the new Act.

“I’m pleased to inform you that my office has now signed the Tobacco Product Control Regulations Act to come into effect as of 1 April 2014, which stipulates comprehensive tobacco control measures to be implemented all over the country,” said Kamwi.

In terms of the Act, individuals who own or are in control of public places like bars and restaurants with patrons, will be fined up to N$60 000 or face three years in prison if found to be in contravention of the Act.

Kamwi also said that within the first three months, warning signs must be displayed at all points of tobacco sale, restricted availability of tobacco to persons under 18 years of age must be instituted and smoking ban signs be put in conspicuous places and specific oversight duties must be implemented by owners or persons in charge of the public places.

He said that once the policy is implemented, individuals will not be allowed to smoke anywhere near public places or the workplace, including malls, schools, restaurants, public transport or sporting venues.

“Money spent on tobacco is often money that can be better spent on vital needs such as shelter, education and food. The World Bank has confirmed repeatedly that economic impact of disability, lost productivity and early deaths due to tobacco contributes to the burden of poverty, retards national development and further widens health and income inequality,” he said.

Kamwi also appointed regional inspectors who will take the lead in ensuring that the Act is adhered to.

The number of inspectors per regions are: Kunene five Hardap four Zambezi one Oshana three Karas four Omaheke three and Kavango five, Ohangwena eight Omusati eight Khomas two Erongo seven Otjozondjupa six Oshikoto three. Kamwi said that more inspectors will be appointed soon.

He also introduced the Tobacco Products Control Committee, who he said will aise him on the application of the Act.

The long-awaited ban has been on the national agenda since 2010, when President Hifikenpunye Pohamba signed the legislation.

The ban has been seen as the most effective way for the ministry to fulfil its commitment to reduce tobacco-related illnesses and to eliminate the danger of secondhand smoking.

The announcement also cements the country’s obligation to meeting its no pubic smoking pledge made under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of 2003. Namibia ratified the convention in 2005.

Chief Executive Officer of the Cancer Association of Namibia, Reinette Koegelenberg, told The Namibian that the announcement was a milestone in reducing the number of lung-cancer cases in the country. “Hopefully, the number of lung-cancer cases in the country will reduce because tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer in patients,” she said.

Source : The Namibian