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Smoking penalties not high enough.


Poly Pantelides

PENALTIES for flouting the smoking ban are not enough to deter offenders and should be increased, the acting head of health services Christos Christou said yesterday.

"Unfortunately it has transpired that the administrative on-the-spot fine of e1/485 has not been considered prohibitive," Christou told state broadcaster CyBC.

He was referring to a joint campaign of the police and health services where 708 venues were inspected between February and April. People were caught smoking in 148.

On-the-spot fines were issued by police. Although the health services have proceeded with criminal prosecution against many of the owners, legal procedures are "very time consuming," Christou said.

"We are currently considering raising the administrative fine by a lot in order to make the legislation more effective and the fine more prohibitive," he said.

Owners of venues who go through the legal system could get jailed for up to six months and/or fined with e1/42,000.

Christou said the aim was to stop illegal smoking by changing the law to allow for hefty on-the-spot fines akin to those slapped on restaurants which can be fined up to e1/4840 a day for failing to comply with health standards.

Put to him that people continued to smoke freely, Christou said: "Perhaps this is due to the small fine of e1/485".

Christou said however that venue owners themselves needed to impose the ban. Some owners themselves have been spotted smoking, he said.

One bar owner told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that he had tried to enforce the smoking ban but was losing too many customers to bars flouting the law.

"In the end I gave in and let my clients smoke," he said. "Now when word gets out that the police are doing a check we go round and ask people to hide the evidence".

"It appears that very many places are not complying with legislation," Christou said.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Stavros Malas, speaking on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, described nightclubs as "incubators of destruction for youth".

Malas said that entertainment centres and night clubs were "the biggest curse of modern Cypriot society," creating addictions to smoking, drinking and drugs.

The Association of Owners of Entertainment Centres (PASIKA) who have previously complained they have been losing business due to the smoking ban, responded by asking for a formal retraction.

"It's not ideal to have a minister tell parents that their children will emerge as junkies from clubs. Things are not like that," said PASIKA head Phanos Leventis.

The smoking ban itself has not been embraced by all lawmakers with some deputies even tabling a 2010 law proposal to offer venues the option of having separate smoking areas because the ban was "too severe". A year later, Green MP Giorgos Perdikis complained that MPs smoked in parliament wherever they wanted. The law on smoking itself has been amended four times so far.

"There are two paths we can take: impose very serious penalties or do nothing," Christou said.

He added that health services and the police would be launching a new anti-smoking campaign in the summer and would be inspecting previously offending venues.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2012

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:May 31, 2012
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