THE Auditor-general has admonished the police for carrying out fewer checks last year on places defying the smoking ban than they did the year before.
In his audit report on the police force published on Wednesday, Odysseas Michaelides said that fines for flouting the ban also dropped by half compared to 2015.
Last year, the report said, 27,520 checks took place compared to more than 35,000 in 2015. It added that police issued 3,023 fines compared to 7,827 in 2015. There was an increase however in the cases for which a criminal file was opened, from 24 in 2015 to 134 last year.
An enforced smoking ban law in public places such as indoor bars and restaurants was passed in 2010 and amended in February to harmonise national legislation with that of the EU.
The harmonising part of the bill concerned placing restrictions on electronic cigarette use similar to those on tobacco products.
The law also banned smoking in all work areas, hospitals, schools, playgrounds for children and all their open areas.
Michaelides recommended that police pick up the pace as regards enforcing the law against smoking and that their checks “are more effective”.
Police did not provide any explanations as to why checks and fines declined last year.
The report said that the police chief had informed the Audit Office that he had given fresh instructions to the heads of all crime prevention units, rural police stations and police administrations to intensify checks concerning smoking.
He also told the Audit Office that he had sent a circular last March to all district chiefs analysing the provisions of the revised law on 2017 and called on all police members “to apply it faithfully”.
“In addition to the smoker, responsibility also lies with the person who is in charge of the smoke-free area where the offence is detected, unless he or she proves that they have taken all reasonable measures required to prevent smoking in the space in question,” the report said.
Both smokers and persons in charge of smoke-free areas are subject to on-the-spot fines of €85, and of up to €2,000 fines if they are referred to court and convicted.
Smoking in open areas is allowed in any enclosed space with one side permanently open. The revised law removed the obligation for a permanent partition between open and closed areas if 30 per cent, or more, of the outside smoking area is open. Opposition parties decried this arrangement, claiming it paves the way for smoking to be allowed effectively everywhere.
A legislative amendment proposed by main opposition Akel banning smoking inside the casino licensed last year by the government was rejected. The ministry of commerce had said that the smoking exemption for the casino had been the result of negotiations with the licensees, and its revocation may impact Cyprus’ image as an investment destination.