The Sierra Leone Parliament has passed a bill banning public smoking, fulfilling a long-time desire of anti-smoking campaigners.
The ‘Tobacco and Nicotine Control Act 2022’ was passed on Wednesday, 3rd August, after an intense debate on it by lawmakers. The piece of legislation is meant to protect the public, especially non-smokers, from the exposure of smoke or vaping, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), which presented the bill to the House, says.
The bill, according to details of it accessed by ManoReporters, provides for the control and regulation of the production, manufacturing, importation, packaging and labelling, and advertising of tobacco and other related products. It also aims at controlling and regulating the sale and use of tobacco products, and ensure the improvement of public health by limiting the heath harms caused by the use of and exposure to tobacco, including nicotine.
The Act notably caters for the creation of the Tobacco and Nicotine Control Council and the Tobacco and Nicotine Control Secretariat. While the former serves as a regulatory body, the latter operates as the implementation of the decisions of the Council.
Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Princess Dugba, presented the bill to lawmakers.
Section 22 of the document lists public places where smoking or vaping are prohibited. These include cinema halls, theatres and other entertainment facilities, at any time they are open to the public.
Other public places include restaurants, hotels, bars or other eateries, as well as correctional centres, police stations and detention facilities, passenger vehicles, marketplaces, among many others.
According to the law, people can only smoke or vape‘within 10 meters of a window, door or air intake mechanism of an enclosed public space, workspace, a waiting area, queue or any other enclosed space that is open to the public.’
Other places where smoking has been banned in Sierra Leone include hospitals, places of worship, places where children and young persons are, and any other outdoor public space or workspace prescribed by the minister (of health) as non-smoking spaces.
Violators of the face a fine of Le1000 (redenominated currency) or an imprisonment of six months or both.
Furthermore, the law also prohibits advertisement of tobacco through the electronic or print media. It states: ‘a person shall not advertise tobacco, a tobacco product or other nicotine products on electronic, print or other medium.’ Violation of this attracts a fine of no less than Le10, 000 or imprisonment for not more than five years.
Promotion of tobacco through sponsorship is also banned. This means that advertising or promoting tobacco, a tobacco product or other nicotine products by organising or sponsoring sporting, cultural, artistic, recreational, educational or entertainment programmes, events or activities are no longer allowed in Sierra Leone.
Importantly, wholesalers and retailers are obliged to register with the ‘Tobacco and Nicotine Control Council.’
The passing of this bill into law ensures Sierra Leone’s incorporation of its obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control into domestic law.
But the law only becomes effective after it is signed by the President.