United States Virgin Islands - enforcement of smoke-free law starts..,

February 13,2011- Gov. John deJongh Jr., 7th Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, took action on eight bills Monday, May 10, 2010 — signing five into law and vetoing three.

The Virgin Islands (V.I.) Smoke-Free Act, bans smoking in enclosed areas of public places and places of employment. The legislation approved by the governor included the “racino” bill to allow casino gambling at the territory’s racetracks and the Smoke-Free Act to ban smoking in the V.I. While he approved the legislation, deJongh wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Louis Hill that some of the law’s definitions — like “enclosed areas” — are too broad and will have to be refined. He also was concerned that the excessive signage requirements would be burdensome to business owners. DeJongh said he is concerned with the penalties included in the law that make violating the smoking ban a misdemeanor. He said it criminalizes smokers and will need to be revisited by the Senate. (DeJongh signs into law anti-smoking, ‘racino’ bills by ALDETH LEWIN, Daily News Staff, 5/11/2010)

On Thursady, February 10, 2011 the V.I. Health Department began enforcing the territory's new smoking ban today. Although the law - which bans smoking in and around almost all businesses and public buildings in the territory, as well as in some outside areas - technically went into effect in November, enforcement was delayed.

The Health Department, which is the lead agency enforcing the law, granted local businesses a three-month extension to come into compliance. The Virgin Islands Smoke-Free Act was signed into law in May and amended during the final session of the 28th Legislature in November. When it passed, the law's definition of "enclosed areas" of public places and places of employment where smoking would be banned sparked controversy - and senators softened the definition when they amended the law. Senators also amended the original law to decriminalize violations, making them civil offenses.

However, even though the definition of "enclosed areas" became a sticking point with the original law, Health officials at the public meetings last month said that essentially, the law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any place providing service to the public, whether those places are in an enclosed area or outside - and whether money is exchanged for services or not. Citing a different provision of the law that prohibits smoking in "any outdoor service or waiting line and in, and within twenty feet from any point of any service or waiting line," Health Department legal counsel Carl Richardson said during the meetings that if any sort of service is being provided anywhere, smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of that location.

Violations can be reported to the Health Department at 712-6230. Health Department spokeswoman Eunice Bedminster said Wednesday that the department will be enforcing the law by following up on complaints.

Learn more about Virgin Islands Smoke-Free Act..

Reference: Smoking ban enforcement begins today by JOY BLACKBURN (Daily News Staff), Morningstar.com, 2/10/2011.