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Statement on Tobacco Control Act 2015 from Shadow Minister of Health and Community Affairs, Michael Weeks JP, MP

7 December 2015

After leading the Opposition debate of this bill, we applaud the Minister for recognizing the weakness in the policy, and I look forward to meeting with her in the days ahead to discuss amendments and solutions that will make this bill more effective in achieving it's goal and benefiting to all Bermudians. 

Last Friday, December 4th, the Progressive Labour Party Members of Parliament stood with me and debated against the Tobacco Control Act 2015, resulting in the Minister of Health needing to rise and report. 

While we agree with this bill in principle, in that we want a healthier society, and to ensure our children are protected from the ills of cigarette smoking, this bill presents several problems that prevent us from supporting it in it's current form.

Enforcement of this bill is one underlying issue that the Minister would be unwise to ignore. This bill will disproportionately penalize the patrons and owners of small businesses and sports clubs, with other places that facilitate smokers left to carry on business as usual. This not only restricts behaviour to an extent larger than necessary, but it also stunts economic growth for this business sector.

Enforcement, however is only one of the problems presented by this bill. Small businesses such as convenience stores, would be hit financially when made to keep snacks at least 9 feet from tobacco products. If stores do not have the luxury of much square footage they will be faced with decisions such as which clientele do I cater to at the expense of the other, tobacco product purchasers or snack purchasers?

Finally, banning the sale of single cigarettes has to be addressed. Purchasing single cigarettes is a way to not only have a cigarette without committing to an entire carton, but it also serves as a way for many to kick the habit of smoking. With the nature of this bill being to create a healthier population, it would be counterproductive to block an avenue many take to become non-smokers.

Additionally, the penalties proposed seem to be excessive.  This bill seems to be unnecessarily making criminals out of smokers and overly punitive with the proposed fines.

After leading the Opposition debate of this bill, we applaud the Minister for recognizing the weakness in the policy, and I look forward to meeting with her in the days ahead to discuss amendments and solutions that will make this bill more effective in achieving it's goal and benefiting to all Bermudians.