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Smoking (Designated Areas) Bill 2023 successfully passed; CMO has power of entry and authority to refuse, revoke and suspend license


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Smoking (Designated Areas) Bill 2023 was successfully passed through the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, as the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis look towards finding a balance between protecting the constitutional rights and freedom of citizens and residents, whilst protecting the rest of the populace.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Hon Garth Wilkin delved into some very important aspects of the Smoking Bill. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO), he explained, is at the forefront of the new regime. The Smoking (Designated Bill) 2023 allows for any person, business, company or promoter to apply to the Chief Medical Officer for a license to have a designated smoking area.

“I just want to go into a little detail about the regime and how it really works and Madam Speaker, it is governed by the CMO Chief Medical Officer, because it is a Public Health Bill. Who better to administer the designation of areas than the person who is chiefly responsible in our country for Public Health? You apply to the Chief Medical Officer. The Chief Medical Officer shows up at your business place, shows up at your venue for your event; and you say “CMO, I want this area to be my designated smoking area.” The CMO then says, “Okay, where’s the breeze blowing normally in this area? Is this area sufficiently far from your general patrons? Is this an outdoor area? Is this an outdoor area? Do you have an indoor area at your business establishment, as well as a balcony area? If you only have an indoor area, do you have proper ventilation, so that other persons in that indoor area are not affected by the smoke?” The CMO then consults with the Chief Fire Officer, to determine if you need to be told [that] you need ten fire extinguishers or you need to create another exit for fire safety. This is the responsible way that the CMO can then carry out that process of designating an area.”

Two hundred dollars will be the cost of a license. However the license, according to the AG, will not be necessary, each year.

“I also want to point out, because we have to be realistic, the business people are going to say, the event promoters are going to say, “How much does this cost?” The idea is that your license will cost you EC $200. I think that’s a reasonable [amount], but because this is new, every business place that used to permit smoking in the past can allow smoking. In other words, they can effectively license to allow smoking until October 31st. So that is a transition period contained in the bill.”

Wilkin added, “With respect to the timeline for the licensing, we didn’t believe that a business place that goes through that entire process of consulting with the CMO, consulting with the fire officials, should have to do that every year. So, we recommend that your licenses expire on December 31 of the next year after you get your licenses. So, effectively you would have to then, if you registered on November 01 your licenses would expire on December 31 2024 and then before January 15, 2025, you’ll have to reapply to get your designated area. But, that doesn’t mean that you convince the CMO and the fire officials to give you the licenses to get your designated smoking area and you do nothing else after that. The CMO has the responsibility to and the authority under the legislation, to revoke and suspend licenses.”

Licenses can be suspended or revoked, if the CMO finds proof of false information or representation when the application is completed, if an individual fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the license, if someone is a frequent abuser of their license, if a business is not in operation for six months or if an individual conducts their business or event in a way that is detrimental to the public interest.

“So, I want to call on the event promoters, if you’re going to have a designated area, you better comply with what the CMO has put in your license, otherwise when you have another event, the smokers [will] be vexed, because they [won’t be able to] smoke at your event, because you don’t have a designated area, because you abuse the legislation. So this is for everyone to win. It is for balance to be made and we ask everyone to comply with the regulations and the application procedure” the Attorney General pleaded.

Meanwhile, The AG disclosed that regulations will be issued by the CMO to interested applicants, so as to provide further clarity on what he/she will need within their designated smoking area, when the application is made. In addition, in the event that one’s license is refused, revoked or suspended, the legislation provides a process which allows for the individual to challenge the decision. If not pleased with the response, he/ she can then take the matter before the High Court.

There’s “Power of Entry” outlined in the legislation. The CMO, the Chief Fire Officer, Environment Health Officer, or a Police Officer can enter one’s premises and determine whether they are complying with the legislation.”

In the case of a business place that is licensed to have a designated smoking area, the owner must ensure that patrons are informed about the designated smoking area upon entry. Wilkin said the specific language to be placed on the sign is, “No smoking or vaping allowed except in the designated smoking area. It is against the law to smoke in public unless in a designated smoking area. Penalties may apply.”


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