By HELEN TARAWA
FINES of up to K10,000 and jail terms of up to three years are the penalties for people who break the rules on chewing betel nuts, smoking and spraying paint in public places.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill tabled in Parliament yesterday the Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill 2018 which, if passed, would impose the tough penalties on offenders.
He said the bill was about “public health and wellbeing”.
Public places include “all vehicles, including a vehicle carrying fare-paying passengers, government offices or private buildings where members of the public have access to”.
He said the bill was intended to ban the:
- selling, buying and chewing of betel nut in public places;
- illegal selling, buying and smoking of tobacco products in public places; and,
- using of spray paints on public properties (graffiti).
“It has become a cause of concern for many of our citizens and a huge problem for our towns throughout the country.”
Debate on the bill is expected to start when Parliament resumes sitting on Nov 6.
O’Neill said the main provision of the Tobacco Control Act in 2016 was to declare certain areas smoke-free zones and to regulate cigarette packaging so that it became unattractive and to prevent the sale of tobacco products to children. “We are now also trying to empower authorities particularly the city authorities, town managers and district authorities to manage this process, including the sale of cigarettes,” he said.
“This is a summary offence that is trying to ensure that there are some penalty clauses. So for offences committed, it is important that we bear some penalties to reinforce compliance.
“At the same time, we must respect the rights of individuals. There are smokers in our communities but there are also the rights of non-smokers as well. It is important we continue to monitor the selling and smoking in areas where it has become a concern for other members of the public.”