Fabian Demicoli

GRTU ASKS GOVERNMENT TO “PLEASE, MAKE YOUR MIND UP”

While one part of
the Ministry of Health spun the line and gave the impression that smaller
establishments need not have smoking rooms in place before next April, the
Minister of Health himself, on Net TV, gave the lie to the spin by declaring
that the smoking restrictions constituted an overall ban, with no
exemptions.

The GRTU has been saying all along that, in breach of the
agreement that had been reached with the Minister, the third version of the
Smoking in Public Places Regulations in effect prohibited smoking everywhere
except in designated smoking rooms. Ministry spokesmen, on the other hand,
persisted in trying to give the impression that smaller bars could leave things
as they were for the time being.

The net result was that confusion
reigned in the market, with some bar owners saying that they were not yet
affected by the ban and others holding that they were. Such was the confusion
created by the Ministry’s apparent inability to get the regulations right even
after three attempts that the GRTU was forced to ask the Attorney-General to
confirm its interpretation of the law.

This has turned out to be an
unnecessary exercise, as no less an authority than the Minister for Health
himself has confirmed the GRTU’s interpretation.
Now that the Minister of
Health has declared himself as the legal authority qualified to interpreter this
confusing bit of legislation, GRTU expects the same Minister to tell owners of
bars, coffee shops, canteens, snack bars, clubs, restaurants and places of
entertainment what they should do to ensure that smoking takes place in smoking
rooms. GRTU’s legal advisers have already informed owners what to do. The
Ministry’s spokesman has however issued contradictory statements.

It is
now up to the Minister to say whether he expects owners to forcibly eject
people. Or whether he is expecting them to employ specially trained bouncers to
evict smoking clients. And are owners expected to contact the Police
Anti-Smoking Flying Squad or should owners video breakers for evidentiary
purposes? Is it acceptable, GRTU asks that the Minister of Health issues a Legal
Notice and then explain it in a confusing and contradictory manner in complete
disregard of all those obliged to implement this clumsily imposed
legislation.

Maltese owners of establishments have no experience to fall
on. After Ireland Malta is only the second country in the world that has imposed
a total smoking ban. Malta is the only country in the world to do this without
consultation and without the setting of special working teams of experts that
ensure that the legislation is expertly drafted and that appropriate directions
and assistance, including financial and fiscal incentives, given to ensure a
smooth implementation.

 

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