Months passed since Tonga has its new laws to ban smoking in some of the public places became effective the authority said they started cracking the whip on smokers who refused to obey.
“It is illegal to smoke in schools, church grounds, workplaces, restaurants, bars, sport venues, health centres, on buses, at the airport, anywhere kava is served, in work vehicles and on vessels such as ferries,” a Ministry of Health statement says.
All these areas must display ‘No smoking’ signs in Tongan and English.
“The Tongan Police Force and the Ministry of Health is (sic) coming down hard on those who break anti-tobacco laws,” the statement says.
The Tongan Police and the Ministry of Health Tobacco Enforcement Officers have issued more than 45 fines just last month, it says.
This included on-the-spot fines of $100 to individuals who were smoking in prohibited places and $200 on-the-spot fines for venue managers who failed to enforce no-smoking or to display ‘no smoking’ or ‘smoking kills’ signage.
The Government is serious about its smoking ban law, it says.
“Our enforcement blitz will be continuing with an especially strong focus on kava halls and church facilities”.
Tonga’s new ‘Quitline’ service is proving extremely popular. The service, which is just over a month old, is providing ongoing support to over 120 smokers who have made the potentially life-saving decision to Quit smoking.
Tupou Tu’ilautala supervises the Quitline and says there are some common reasons people want to Quit.
“The families of people who smoke are more likely to live in poverty. Smoking a pack a day costs $3,400TOP a year and a lot of people are beginning to realise that they want to use that money for their family. Also, many of the people I have spoken to want to stop smoking because they don’t want their kids to aspire to smoking – they know they are role modelling a behaviour that kills”.
Mr Tu’ilautala went on to say “People who quit pretty quickly start to see a change in their energy, how they smell, the money they have spare – quitting can be hard, but we are here to help and we want people to know that anyone can quit if they really want to”.
The 0800 333 Quitline is completely free and is staffed by trained Ministry of Health staff who offer free advice and non-judgmental support to quit smoking.