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Tobacco Act comes into effect on May 2

ORANJESTAD — No more individual cigarette sales, no longer being able to buy tobacco products under the age of 21, and a smoking ban in public areas; those are some of the changes that will become reality from May 2. The new tobacco law will come into effect on that day, said Health Minister Dangui Oduber (MEP) during a press conference yesterday.

The National Ordinance on the Restriction of Tobacco Products was unanimously adopted by the States on October 26. Before the Act could enter into force, the associated National Decrees had to be processed first. Now the time has come, and the entry date into force has been set for next May 2. Between now and that day, the protocols for the implementation of the legislation will first be prepared, regulators will be prepared, and a checklist will be issued. The ministry also intends to launch an awareness campaign ‘Concientisa, Educa pa Activa’ to accompany the implementation. As part of the campaign, there will be a presentation to stakeholders, a media tour of radio and television stations, participation in the podcast ‘Chasing Health’, and action in primary schools ‘Aruba sin tabaco’.

Changes

With the arrival of the new smoking ban, it is no longer allowed to smoke in public places such as schools, bus stops, outdoor areas at eateries, and recreational areas (Article 2). Smoking is also prohibited in all forms of public transport (Article 4), as well as in private transport if a minor is present (Article 2A). The law also states that employers are responsible for protecting employees from tobacco smoke in the workplace during working hours and that they must provide separate, well-ventilated smoking areas (Article 3). The minimum age for purchasing tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 21 (Article 6), as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, the law also states that no tobacco products may be distributed free of charge to private individuals and there will also be a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes (Article 6A). Finally, it is prohibited to sell or distribute tobacco products in certain institutions such as government, medical, culture and art, sports, and education (article 5). Anyone who does not comply with these new rules can expect a fine. The departments that will be responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the law are the Department for Commodities Inspection and Hygiene (DWH) and the Aruba Police Force (KPA).

Incomplete

The former smoking ban that was adopted in the States in 2016 came to a halt due to the lack of a National Decree. The reason for this was that the Wever-Croes cabinet decided to amend the former law, which was an initiative law of AVP parliamentarian Marlon Sneek. The law would be “incomplete,” “inconsistent” and “difficult to enforce,” Secretary Oduber told the Amigoe in October. “It was not feasible, so we decided on the advice of the Public Health Department to adapt and modernize it,” he explained at the time. “I decided to follow the advice of the Department of Public Health, as they are the experts in this field. As a next step, I have set up a committee charged with the revision of this National Ordinance and drafting the necessary proposals for amendment.”

Not as far as the Netherlands

The new smoking ban includes many major changes but does not go as far as that of the Netherlands. This year, cigarette vending machines will be banned there, 2023 there will be a ban on the online sale of tobacco and from 2024 the sale of cigarettes in supermarkets will be restricted. All this together is expected to lead to about 12,000 fewer smokers in the Netherlands by 2030. The sale of tobacco must then be phased out from 2030. Two years ago, Minister Oduber told this newspaper that he is interested in the same plan, but that this should be dealt with separately after the current law has been introduced.

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