One recent Saturday he walked through the market with a “no smoking” sign, calling out that people were not to smoke at the market.
“The fine will be $2,000 if you are convicted. If you must smoke, go down to the beach, you can smoke there, but not here.”
He says he is at the market most Saturdays and claims to have been appointed by the Health ministry as airport and market security. However, acting health secretary Dr YinYin May says she has no knowledge of this appointment.
A World Health Organisation report says the Cook Islands has smoke-free laws covering government facilities, cafés, bars and public transport, and that the fines for smoking are to be directed at the establishment where the smoking is being done, rather than at the smoker.
While no-one from Public Health was prepared to comment, the Tobacco Products Control Act 20017, mentioned in The Cook Islands Tobacco Control Action Plan 2012 – 2016, says that smoking is banned in public places and work places which are indoors or fully or partly enclosed, and in public transport vehicles and aircraft.
It says data indicates continuing high levels of exposure to tobacco smoke in the Cook Islands, particularly among young people, and that action is required to strengthen the enforcement of smoke free requirements, along with a clear definition of ‘partly enclosed’.
The Punanga Nui Market is a public place but it is not enclosed, only the individual huts are enclosed, so smoking, even though not advised for health and financial reasons, smoking in the open public areas may still be legal.