BY DOTUN IBIWOYE
The exposure to environmental tobacco smoke which is also called second-hand smoke, causes serious diseases to non-smokers, and as a result, several governments around the world have prohibited smoking in public places.
Lagos state government few weeks ago joined the trend by signing into law two bills, establishing the State Emergency Command and Control Centre and the Regulation of Smoking in Public Places, stating that the two laws would help to strengthen the administration to efficiently discharge her responsibility to protect life and property.
To many,the step is a positive one which majority of the people will applaud but the issue of concern is implementation of the law, which is a problem that has plagued the country for several years.
With a myriad of security, poverty and unemployment issues that are inherent in a megacity like Lagos, fishing out ‘illegal’ smokers might not be the priorities of the law enforcers particularly at the grassroots.
In most of the industrialized countries, there are regulations in place that restrict or ban smoking in public places, nightclubs, restaurants and bars.
Some of them allow narrow exemptions from smoking bans, for instance by creating separate smoking rooms in the hospitality sector, but others have banned virtually all indoor public smoking.
The Public Place Smoking Law which was passed by the Lagos State House Assembly in January was assented to by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) last week, when he said that the state’s commitment to public safety and public health is stronger than the question of whether the law to regulate smoking in public places will work or not adding that the state owes a moral obligation to first intervene.
The law prohibits residents of the state from smoking in public places such as libraries, museum, public toilets, schools, hospital, day-care centres, public transportation and restaurants among others.
Section 12 of the 16-section law also instructs owners of public places to place signs with the inscription; ‘No Smoking’ or symbols as part of enlightenment for smokers and would-be violators of the law.
Section 4 of the law says that it shall be the duty of those who own or occupy public places to ensure that approved signs are displayed conspicuously at each entrance and in prominent locations throughout the premises to inform smokers about the prohibition.
In such public places, the owners are mandated by the law to create areas where people could smoke but that it should not be close to the vicinity.
The law states that it is an offence to obstruct duly authorised officers from carrying out their duties under the provision of this law. It also gives authorised commissioners of the state, the opportunity to designate more places as non-smoking areas for the sake of effective implementation of the law.
The law gives the state Environmental Protection Agency powers to implement it while giving aggrieved residents who have complaints against officials of the state saddled with the implementation the opportunity to report to the state Ministry of the Environment.