27 November 2012

Liberia: Public Smoking Law Weak

A cross-section of Liberians has spoken of the urgent need for the enforcement of public smoking regulations which prohibit the use of tobacco products in public places across Liberia.

The regulation named educational institutions, commercial vehicles and medical institutions as public places.

The regulation also banned the sale of these products to children under the age of 18 years.

The citizens who were interviewed Monday comprised of marketers and students.

They observed that the law is not being enforced by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its designated partner, the Liberia National Police since it was passed by the 52nd Legislature and signed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on September 11, 2008.

Following the passage of the regulation and its subsequent printing into hand bills, the Ministry of Health set September 1, 2011 as the deadline for the use of tobacco products (public smoking) in public places and warned that violators would be drastically dealt with.

But speaking to The NEWS in Monrovia, the citizens said that there are several individuals bent on violating the regulation with impunity.

Fahanbulleh Foday, the President of the Movement for Social Justice and Equality said there are individuals who always smoke in public places without regard to the regulation because the Health Ministry and the LNP were not bringing them to book.

"There are people who are smoking in public places and as a result, it is causing serious health problems for people who don't smoke. These acts are being committed in open places and on public transportation vehicles," Foday said.

Foday said it was unfortunate that since the passage of the regulation, there has been no arrest made by the Liberia National Police that the public is aware of.

A market woman, Kebeh Kollie of Joe Bar Market on the Old Road said they are tired of inhaling second-hand smoke from individuals especially mentally deranged people who are consistently seen smoking in public.

"Besides the public smoking there were some shop operators still selling these tobacco products to under aged children. These people need to be arrested and fined for violation, but our law enforcers seem not to have interest," Madam Kollie said.

Section 11 of the regulation states that the use of tobacco products in public places is second degree misdemeanor under the Penal Code, and any offending person convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction shall be subject to the penalties associated with misdemeanors.

Section 9 of the regulation further said anyone in violation of selling tobacco products to person under the age of 18 years, shall upon conviction, be fined not less than L$10,000 and not more than L$25,000.

Madam Kollie observed that unless violators are made to pay these fines, the enforcement of the regulation would be a mere lip-service.

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