Smoking in public places is illegal, but what provisions are there in the law for those smoking in shared private domiciles where second-hand smoke directly affects a non-consenting party?
According to Acting Sergeant of Police Nicholas Tranquille, there is no violation being committed in such a scenario.
A complaint was recently made to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) in relation to two tenants of an apartment building — a male smoker and a female non-smoker.
The complaint was that second-hand smoke was affecting the female tenant but the male smoker refuses to put out his tobacco cigarette. The police, however, said they have no jurisdiction to act on the complaint.
“I am not saying she doesn’t have recourse. I am saying there is no violation there because the fact of the matter is, she is living in a private accommodation, and the guy is sharing next to her. There is no offence there,” Officer Tranquille told BVI News reporter Esther Durand in a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t empower me as the police to come and say to the guy, ‘listen, stop smoking.’ There is a law, but the law speaks about public places; a public setting,” he explained.
The police sergeant further said the relevant authority to seek recourse from in such an instance is the registered property owner — the landlord.
But even then, it is at the landlord’s discretion whether to implement a policy about smoking on the property, Officer Tranquille explained.
The female tenant in question has made the landlord aware of the situation countless times. But, no real effort has been made to put a halt to issue, which has been affecting her since she first rented the apartment nearly three years ago.
She said it is the smoke — which saturates her apartment when left unchecked — that bothers her.
The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) indicates that second-hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds of which are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.
Over a million dies from second-hand smoke yearly
Second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems such as respiratory infections, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and more frequent respiratory attacks in asthmatics.
The World Health Organisation has reported that tobacco smoking kills more than 8 million people each year. It said 1.2 million of those deaths are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
BVI News sought the opinion of a local attorney on whether legal action can be taken.
The attorney, who did not want her name publicised, said the situation at hand “is a civil matter”.
“That is a matter only if they have breached the tenancy agreement, if the tenancy agreement laid out what conduct all the parties must have while they are tenants. It has to be something done in violation of your tenancy agreement,” she explained.
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