Malta u l-politika

Ittri ċċensurati u punti ta' riflessjoni politika.




Int x'tahseb?


Kitbitli persuna fejn qalb il-kliem sabih u ta' mhabba u rispett bhal ma soltu nircievi minghand in-Nazzjonalisti staqsietni ghaliex insemmi kritika biss fuq il-PN u ma nghid xejn tajjeb fuqhom. Semmietli bhala ezempju ir-regolamenti l-godda li hareg il-gvern dwar it-tipjip f'postijiet pubblici. Li kieku din il-persuna kitbet bhan-nies kont nirrispondiha bhal ma naghmel lil haddiehor, imma la kienet vulgari jien ma rrispondejtiex. Imma kont diga lest biex nikteb fuq dan il-pass tajjeb tal-gvern u fuq l-arroganza li wriet il-GRTU.


Mela nibdew mill-bidu. Jien qbilt mill-ewwel ma' dawn ir-regolamenti ghax xbajt inkun skjav tal-arroganza ta' dawk li jpejpu u kont qieghed nistenna bil-herqa kollha tasal il-gurnata fejn fiha nara familji shah igawdu ftit rikrejazzjoni f'ambjent minghajr tniggiz. L-ewwel reazzjoni tieghi ghar-regolamenti kienet ta' staghgib ghax ma bsartx li l-gvern Nazzjonalista kien se jasal jaghmel haga bhal din. Imma wara l-istghagib mill-ewwel gieni d-dubju ghax il-gvern Nazzjonalista nafu tajjeb u bhali tafuh inthom ukoll. Hsibt li l-ahjar haga kienet li naghti cans ftit, halli nara din il-herqa kollha tal-gvern sa fejn se twassal imbaghad nikteb fuq dan is-suggett. U kif jghid il-Malti, "Lil min tafu tistaqsix ghalih". Ghat-theddid tal-GRTU, il-gvern x’ghamel? Ceda!! Sparixxiet dik l-aspettattiva kollha li l-maggoranza tal-poplu kellha li fl-ahhar hemm xi hadd li se jiehu hsieb sahhitna waqt ir-rikrejazzjoni taghna. Dik il-herqa li tigri tasal dik il-gurnata tad-deheb li ma nifgghux aktar bid-dhahen tas-sigaretti, inbidlet f'rabja u bhali hemm hafna li staqsew lilhom infushom, "dan il-gvern m'ghandu hila jaghmel xejn sew?". U b'dan is-sens ta' kollass, sens li gejna mirbuhin, sens li qatghulna l-ghatx bil-perzut u sens ta' rabja kont se niftah pagna fuq dan is-suggett f'din is-site . . . imbaghad rajt l-editorjal ta' The Times tal-15 ta' Marzu 2004. Nahseb ahjar inhalli f'idejn in-Nazzjonalisti stess jitqatlu bejniethom.



The weaker they become


"Judging by the government's track record, it should not have come as a surprise really. But given the sensitive nature of the issue - public health - the Health Minister's climb-down with regard to the smoking ban in public places is disgraceful, a big blot on the Fenech Adami administration, now in its last days, and a bad omen for the one that Lawrence Gonzi will be heading in a matter of days. Health Minister Louis Deguara announced on Friday the government would be giving restaurants and bars measuring over 60 square metres up to six months to come in line with the law banning smoking in public places. Those under 60 square metres have until April 2005 to install air purification equipment. He denied that the concessions were tantamount to caving in to pressure from businessmen and the smoking lobby. "I would rather avoid confrontation and try and meet somewhere along the line," Dr Deguara told the press. And later he exclaimed: "What should we do? Take all the bar owners to court on the first day the law comes into force because they are not in line?" Only last February 27, a government minister wrote thus in The Times: "Surveys have shown that we have the support of more than 80 per cent of the population. A good percentage of these must include smokers. "So we will remain firm on these restrictions." "For months on end nobody complained. Recently all hell broke loose. We have had statements by the MHRA and by the GRTU. The latter have even threatened to break the law. This is outrageous even if childish behaviour. Sabre rattling and chauvinism will lead us nowhere. This is a throw back to the dark era of our history. This is a democratically elected government." The minister writing so was none other than Dr Deguara. What happened since then? Why did he change his mind? Was the climb-down a Cabinet decision? Is this the stuff our ministers are made of? It certainly is not what the people expect and Dr Gonzi should keep that well in mind when appointing his new Cabinet. Dr Deguara's announcement on Friday makes two clear statements. First that it pays to rattle the sabre and, second, that there are times when the will and wishes of the minority are allowed by government decree to prevail over those of the majority. Just seven days before Dr Deguara's column on smoking, The Times had run an editorial entitled The League of Unruly Gentlemen, lambasting the GRTU for its threat to challenge the law. Well, in view of Friday's developments, the minister himself - and, indeed, his Cabinet colleagues if the concession came by their edict - is welcome to join this league. We are not discussing here whether the new smoking regulations were drawn up following an adequate consultation process. Or whether the best possible effort was made to ensure they are fair with everybody. The point at issue here is a simple one - the government's inability to govern. Of course, the government cannot wake up tomorrow and rule that, after all, the smoking regulations will be enforced as originally drafted. Or can it? In the circumstances, non-smokers just have to like it or lump it and perhaps ask themselves what is the more lethal, passive smoking or ministerial antics and whims.”


Inkredibbli. Gvern bla hila, gvern kodard, gvern mitruh. Dan kontra erba qtates li heddew li jiksru l-ligi . . . ahseb u ara x'gej il-quddiem issa li sirna membri tal-Unjoni Ewropea u nibdew niffacjaw iljuni horox hafna akbar minna li kapaci jibilghuna!!! Alla jilliberana!!!





Daphne Caruana Galizia, mahruqa wahda sew meta rat il-partit taghha jwaqqa' lilu nnifsu ghac-cajt ma felhietx aktar. F'The Malta Independent tat-18.3.2004 kitbet:


“The government seems not to have noticed that it is not there to serve the interests of the GRTU, but those of the people. … it should have kept its word, gone ahead, and implemented it. … the government has come across as spineless and flaccid. … And they will also lose the respect of the public. Strategically, it would be disastrous. There’s nothing to be gained and plenty to be lost. I’d forgotten that when people have been in government for so long, they lose sight of the importance of how they are perceived by the public. As long as they are convinced that what they are doing is the right thing, then that’s OK. Who cares about the rest of the population? … This is yet another bad case of tunnel vision, of course. …  Confronted with the amoral thuggery of the GRTU … the government puts its stubby tail between its stocky little legs and crawls into its kennel for a good old whining session. … Either the government is more out of touch with the people than has been apparent so far, or its various components have become so confident in their ability to get away with things … that they have become careless in their assessment of situations. … What about that 80% of the population, then? We clearly didn’t count, and still don’t. … Having got into the let’s-appease-the-GRTU-mode so as to win its support for the Yes vote in the referendum, the government now seems unable to wrench itself out of that way of thinking…. The appeaser immediately becomes vulnerable to the appeased, held to ransom until he has the guts to stand up and say: “Enough!” … This is exactly what has happened to the government now (and it has been a long time coming).”


Tithassruhiex lil Daphne. Min jaf kemm qamet kmieni nhar l-elezzjoni biex tmur tigri tivvota ghal-dawk li llum qed tghajjarhom bli ghandhom u m'ghandhomx. Ic-cucata hi li l-bqija tal-poplu qieghed ibghati wkoll mid-dizastri tal-gvern Nazzjonalista.





President tal-World Medical Association.

The Times tas-6 t’April 2004

“The president of the World Medical Association yesterday described the introduction of air-purifying systems instead of a total ban on smoking in public places as a "con trick" - a dishonest way of misleading people. "Air-cleaning systems remove some of the dangerous substances, but not all, and harmful substances are still in the air," James Appleyard said. Speaking to The Times, Dr Appleyard stressed that most second-hand smoke is invisible and odourless. The smoke contains around 4,000 different substances, 50 of which are toxic and have been known to cause cancer. "There is no safe level below which no adverse effects can be seen," he said. Conventional ventilation and air-cleaning systems, he said, were expensive and did not provide effective protection because only the visible particulate matter and not the harmful gases were filtered. "This gives a false impression of safety." Dr Appleyard explained that if people cannot smell or see the smoke, they might think that the area was safe, and that, he said, was "deceitful". "Introducing air purifiers is a con trick. It is dishonest to mislead the population by making them believe that there are no hazardous substances in the air," he said. A publication by the British Medical Association - Towards Smoke-free Public Places - says conventional ventilation systems commonly involve the partial dilution and re-circulation of filtered air. It says the systems are "inadequate in offering protection from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke". "Positive output ventilation", where air is exhausted from an enclosed space at a rate that completely replaces the air in the room, may reduce the risk but not eliminate it. Dr Appleyard said that for an area to be completely safe, it has to be totally isolated since smoke can waft across from smoking areas to non-smoking ones. "It is crazy to try and introduce something which you know does not work, at an enormous expense. And it is worse to give the impression that they are actually the answer," said Dr Appleyard, who was in Malta at the invitation of the Medical Association of Malta to deliver a speech about children. He said a large study in the United States showed that nearly half of non-smokers who claimed not to have been exposed to second hand smoke, had metabolites of nicotine from cigarettes in their blood. "The health hazards of passive smoking are well known. In adults there is conclusive evidence that passive smoking causes lung cancer, coronary heart disease and exacerbates asthma attacks. There is also substantial evidence that it causes strokes," he said, adding that one study found that the risk was doubled among non-smokers married to a smoker. Meanwhile, in children, there is conclusive evidence that passive smoking causes cot death, ear and respiratory infections, and it is likely to be associated with premature births and low birth weight infants when the expectant mother is exposed to a smoking environment. A legal notice banning smoke from public places, with the exception of bars and restaurants, came into force yesterday. After coming under pressure from the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, the government granted establishments measuring over 60 square metres up to six months to come in line with the regulations. And establishments under 60 square metres have been given until April next year to install the air purification equipment according to the criteria established by the Malta Standards Authority (MSA). Dr Appleyard said smoking at the workplace was of particular concern, and added that workers in restaurants were exposed to about twice as much cigarette smoke as office workers, and bar workers up to six times. He said the economic costs to the employer come from increased time off work through illness and reduced productivity. Employers also have to bear the indirect costs of higher maintenance, cleaning costs, greater risk of fire damage, explosion and accidents, and higher fire insurance premiums. "I encourage the government not to delay introducing this regulation," he said, adding that although behaviour will not change immediately, a positive change will take place over time. The association president said the government was one of the first to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, when other governments were put off by the industry. He said Britain had not been strong enough so far to introduce the necessary measures on behalf of its population, and on behalf of its children. He said smoke-free public places in Malta would be a selling point for tourists. "Malta will become the place of choice, and can be promoted as such. I don't think the number of tourists visiting Malta will decrease, but in fact other tourists can be attracted because people will feel safer," he said. If a smoking ban were introduced and respected, there would be long-term positive effects: "The sooner it is implemented, the better. There is no excuse for delay." A number of papers question the harm of second-hand smoke. Asked about this, Dr Appleyard asked who could be trusted - the industry or medical people. "Do you trust the industry which sells this product, or physicians? The smoking lobby raises doubts about the whole issue, and this terrifies people," he said. Tobacco manufacturers, he said, spend £11.3 million annually to promote their products.”





“The Standing Committee on Public Health (SCOPH) of the Malta Medical Students' Association (MMSA) has expressed disappointment at the decision to postpone the introduction of legislation against smoking in public places.”

The Times 7.4.2004






The Malta Independent on Sunday tal-5 ta’ Settembru 2004

“The way the whole thing has been managed, or mismanaged, is a sorry story. The first mistake was that it was introduced willy-nilly, without proper consultation with the interested parties, and without proper presentation to the public. It should also have been more sensitive to the situation at ground level, and should have been introduced in a more staggered way, beginning from the high class outlets and only then affecting the lesser outlets. Be that as it may, the second mistake was even worse: faced with an outcry, the government backed down even though it has been repeatedly proved that a clear majority are in favour of the ban. Government succumbed to the usual outcry in the media, when it well knows this is the result of an activist or two, thus giving the country three points to ponder: This government is weak and succumbs to organised resistance. This government is afraid of a public outcry, even to the point of disregarding what is a clear danger to public health. If the government backed down, concerned it was about to lose the 12 June election, it did so nevertheless. Possibly, this weakness helped its defeat. Serves it right. The third mistake was that the government tried to beat the rest of the EU, where only Ireland has followed the US example, when it could have staggered the whole exercise until the rest of Europe decided to follow instead of trying to be more Catholic than the Pope.”





Wara li l-GRTU ghaddiet taghha bil-Gvern idoqq l-irtirata u bil-ligi tigi posposta, wasalna imbaghad f'Ottubru 2004 meta kella tidhol fis-sehh il-ligi (ghat-tieni darba). Naraw ghalhekk x'gara meta suppost dahlet il-ligi u x'ghamlet il-pulizija biex tara li l-ligi tigi osservata. Wara kollox inutli l-gvern jaghmel il-ligijiet imbaghad ma jahsibx biex dawn l-istess ligijiet jigu osservati.


The Malta Independent on Sunday tal-10 ta' Ottubru qalet hekk:

The first six days following the introduction of the smoking ban have been ‘a disaster’ across the whole bar and leisure industry. The scenes in Paceville were as desolate as could be, with less patrons around, and people turning up but then changing their minds and leaving. There were also some incidents when the bartenders told people they could not smoke, “some either swore at the government, others went directly political while others still defied the law, creating embarrassment and worse,” as GRTU’s Philip Fenech put it. There was also one amusing incident when a group of Irish tourists went to a bar at Qawra and were told about the smoking ban. “You’re joking,” they replied, “we came to Malta to get around our ban.” They then walked out in a rage. All leisure outlets contacted reported a drop in income: some of as much as 60 per cent while others less. The drop in income was less marked in restaurants but here the danger is of substantial job losses in the coming weeks. Some restaurant owners have given themselves to the end of the month to see if the drop continues. If that is sustained, redundancies will become the order of the day. The ban has also brought about a seismic shift in the way people enjoy their leisure time. It has disrupted the previous well-accepted pattern in bars, for now there is a continuous stream of people going outside to smoke. Thus, people drink less, consume less food at the bar, and DJs and musicians have less custom. Also, people smoking outside tend to smoke faster, thus inhaling more in their eagerness to go in and rejoin the conversation. People have also shifted to private parties which have sprouted all over the place as the only way to beat the ban. Mr Fenech said that the anger of bartenders is directed at one specific person, Dr Mario Spiteri from the Health Promotion Unit. His work against smoking is commendable, Mr Fenech said, but he is invited to go anywhere in the leisure industry or in Paceville and see for himself that the effects GRTU had warned about have now come all true. Some of Dr Spiteri’s comments now rankle more than ever in bartenders’ minds. Dr Spiteri, Mr Fenech explained, said that the big outlets have made the changes required. This is not true, as the regulations are written in such convoluted language that even the owners of the larger outlets cannot understand them. Nor is it true that the small outlet owners have put up a canopy in front of their shop. As to the argument that the smoking ban was brought to cinemas and there was no impact, that was a wrong argument to bring up, as people go to bars and coffee shops far more often than they go to watch a film. And while they watch the film at the cinema, they speak and chat in bars. Dr Spiteri had also claimed that any low turnout for bars by the smokers would be compensated by the non-smokers all coming out. Given that 90,000 smoke in Malta, roughly one-third of the population except the under-aged and the elderly. But there has been absolutely no evidence that the non-smokers have now started to go out. “We tell our members to remove ashtrays from their outlet and to put up the GRTU stickers outside,” Mr Fenech said. “Then it is up to the client to self-regulate. God forbid that this decision leads to ruin or to companies going bankrupt. Even before, the situation was not rosy at all for many owners. “GRTU cooperated and did, and still does, its best to curb smoking. But we wanted things to be brought in a more gradual manner and to be based on voluntary choice. We wanted to create competition between smoking and non-smoking venues and then let the market decide until the other European countries came aboard so that we would not get this negative image among potential tourists.” Mr Fenech’s parting shot was quite telling: In all the issue, we had only two meetings with health minister Louis Deguara and the two meetings were only held after we had to intervene with Prime Minister Gonzi.”


The Malta Independent tat-13 ta' Ottubru qalet hekk:

Friday night was not so bad, but throughout Saturday night, many revellers decided to flout the smoking ban regulations and light up indoors in non-smoking areas. … But, as usual, quite a large minority decided to just do as they pleased and light up. Although on Friday night, one saw that police were making checks in establishments, the same could not really be said on Saturday. And apart from a few establishments, managers, bouncers and the like did not even bother to tell people not to smoke when they were in breach of the law. Most establishments did have prominent signs indicating that they were non-smoking establishments but, as said earlier, enforcement was rather lacking. … The GRTU was up in arms over the weekend and said that its predictions of drastic loss of business had already become a reality by the weekend. They claim that people are either defying the law, leaving the establishment or just standing outside and smoking. Coupled with the bottle-ban, things do not look rosy at all. … Many people spoken to echoed this sentiment. Another man was not quite so law-observing. Asked whether he would stick to the rules, he promptly lit up a cigarette in a no-smoking area and said: “What rules?” … Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that there are insufficient police in Paceville – and that was even before the new duty of patrolling for smokers came into effect. However, if the law is to be enforced, there certainly needs to be more patrols. …  Clubs were not really affected very badly, but they did admit that a substantial number of patrons were flouting the rules.


Dr. Gonzi x'jiswa li taghmel il-ligijiet imbaghad ma tarax li dawn il-ligijiet jigu osservati sewwa? Mhux bizzejjed li l-Gvern waqqa lilu nnifsu ghac-cajt meta ceda ghall-pressjoni tal-GRTU? Tajtu anke lilkom infuskom aktar cans sabiex tilqghu ghal dak li kien ser isehh meta tidhol il-ligi. Il-poplu qisu qed jitlob xi haga kbira meta jghidilkom biex taghmlu l-affarijiet sew.  Aghmlu l-affarijiet sew mill-ewwel, ara li l-ippjanar isir b'mod professjonali u meta tiehu decizjoni ibqa maghha u mhux iccedi mall-ewwel ostaklu. L-ideja kienet tajba, imma ghandek twassal il-vapur sal-port u tarah jitrakka mal-moll u mhux tabbandunah f'nofs ta' bahar.


Dment li l-ligi tibqa tinkiser, dawk li ma jpejpux se jibqghu ibaghtu l-konsegwenzi tal-arroganza ta' dawk li jpejjpu u tal-inkompetenza ta' dawk fil-gvern.





Mr Josef Florian Micallef, Birkirkara

The Sunday Times 5.2.2006

I cannot understand why some laws are never enforced. I attended a small party at Liquid Club at Tal-Balal on Saturday, January 7. After a few minutes, my eyes were burning and the smell of smoke was unbearable - all this despite a notice indicating that smoking is prohibited. I returned home later and had difficulty breathing properly as my skin, hair and clothes seeked of smoke. Incredibly, at about 12.30 a.m., a police officer entered the club, slowly strolled around, paying no attention whatsoever to the smoking! Even more incredibly, no one I saw bothered to stub out their cigarette while he was there. I'm not sure whether the police officer spoke to the manager about the infringements to the law before he left the premises. I am aware that smoking takes place in other clubs and bars. Smoking is not only harming the smokers themselves and the atmosphere in the clubs, but also non-smokers, who should not, under any circumstances, be put in these situations. It is clear that smoking is given preference over other people's right to enjoy themselves. The police should take serious action against the police officer on duty that night, and all other officers taking the same attitude. Action should also be taken against the club owner. Smokers: if you want to smoke, at least have the common courtesy to smoke where you only harm yourselves.





Dr Mario Spiteri, Direttur tad-Dipartiment għall-Promozzjoni tas-Saħħa … jsostni li “F’bars, pubs u clubs il-Liġi b’mod ġenerali qed tkun injorata. It-tipjip ħafna drabi qed ikompli għaddej anke b’mod fejn jidher u dan għad-detriment tal-ħaddiema u ta’ dawk li jkunu fil-post tad-divertiment.”

Illum, 14.1.2007





Over 40 per cent of Maltese citizens feel the laws banning smoking in public places are not being respected, a Eurobarometer study on tobacco has revealed. Malta is one of the countries where smoking bans in all public places have been introduced, together with Ireland, Sweden and Italy. Yet, while people in the three countries think smokers generally respect the law - 91 per cent in Ireland, 86 per cent in Sweden and 76 per cent in Italy - in Malta, 41 per cent feel it is being flouted. The findings will only enforce the general perception that enforcement in Malta tends to be weaker than the legislation it is meant to uphold. Though the four countries have introduced smoke-free legislation, in Italy (30 per cent), Malta (19 per cent) and Sweden (six per cent) people still claim to be exposed to tobacco smoke for, at least, under one hour per day. … When contacted, Health Promotion director Mario Spiteri voiced his dismay that the anti-smoking regulations were not being respected, mainly in nightclubs and bars.

The Times 24.5.2007





Edgar Camilleri, Qormi

The Times 21.1.2008

The public's attention was recently drawn to the fact that last year a total of 1,275 persons were caught by the police smoking in public places. This information was given by Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg to a question in Parliament by Labour MP Adrian Vassallo. I can assure the authorities that the figure can easily be doubled. If at any given time they were to conduct surprise visits, the figure would shoot up drastically, especially where I live, in Qormi. There one will notice abusers challenging the law, thinking they are untouchable. It is about time the wardens deal with this improper challenge from abusers. Whenever I see a warden at Qormi, he or she is only delegated to traffic duties. It is time to be tougher on these smokers.





Jackie Cachia, St Julians.

The Times 25.1.2008

The other evening my friends and I were dining at a bar and restaurant in the Valletta area. People were in the bar smoking while others politely stepped out of the bar to smoke their cigarette. I approached one of the waiters and asked him if smoking was permitted and his reply was that everyone smokes but if I were to see a policeman approach I should immediately put out the cigarette. I was very annoyed with his reply as I am a non-smoker and, therefore, I decided to ask someone else. I went near the manager and asked him once more if smoking was permitted and he replied that he had no control over the clients in the bar who were smoking. I asked him if it was a non-smoking bar and he confirmed this. When I asked him about the law, he told me that it didn't bother him as the owner of the bar is not fined, only the persons caught smoking. As far as I know, both clients and owners are fined and this was confirmed by a policeman I know. So maybe the manager should be informed about what the law says and abide by it, or better still the police should pay more visits to such bars and restaurants on Saturday nights.





Arthur Ellul, councillor, Ħamrun

The Times 8.11.2008

Like Adrian Caruana (Enforcing Smoking Ban With A Heavy Hand, November 6) I too am a non-smoker, and the cigarette smell on my clothes and hair after socialising in bars in my locality does not amuse me at all. It is very disturbing that smokers are gradually taking over the bars in total disrespect of the law, as if no law exists forbidding smokers from puffing away in full view. I live in Ħamrun and visit particular bars come Sundays and the odd football night. Every single place I enter is crowded with smokers, and when politely asked to refrain from smoking, usually their reply is that I, a non-smoker, should leave the place and go elsewhere, as if smokers enjoy a divine right to patronise places where others do not dare to enter. May I suggest that the local police occasionally effect a snap check in the popular High Street bars, and, perhaps, bring to book those persons who behave in this disrespectful way towards society.





Candidus II

On The Dot

The Times 9.2.2009

Wardens and policemen on the lookout for people smoking at places of entertainment usually first book those sitting by the entrance, giving ample time for those inside to put out their cigarettes and feign nonchalance. This is what is known as easy picking. Owners of restaurants are still being lax about the law and allowing smokers to have their way so as not to lose business.





Patricia Falzon, Attard

The Times 10.8.2009

Why is it that although the no smoking legislation came into force some years back, one still goes to Paceville and finds smoking in all the bars and discos? Does no one enforce the law?





The Sunday Times 7.2.2010

If anyone objected to the bartender smoking behind the bar of St Julian's Labour Club in the early hours of yesterday morning, they would not have had to go far to inform a police officer. St Julian's police station is just next door, and there was an officer in uniform drinking at the bar. The problem was, he was smoking as well. Smoking in enclosed public spaces in Malta was banned nearly six years ago, but you would not know it if you were in Paceville or St Julian's on the past two Friday nights. The Sunday Times visited a total of 14 bars in the area over the two evenings between 10.30 p.m. and 1.30 a.m. to witness how the current smoking restrictions are being enforced. Judging by the manner in which revellers smoked inside with impunity, the government's decision to extend the ban to all public places from 2013 will have little significance in Malta's premier nightlife district. It was 10.45 p.m. in a busy and well-known St Julian's pub on January 29, when a bartender informed this newspaper that smoking inside was at patrons' own risk. The number of people lighting up inside demonstrated that it was a risk many were willing to take. The bird's eye view of Malta in one of the country's most prestigious venues was obscured by a cloud of cigarette smoke between 11.30 and 11.55 p.m. on the same night. A mixed crowd of locals and foreigners smoked openly, with many lighting up at the bar while waiting to be served. On to the centre of Paceville, where The Sunday Times asked one security guard on the door of a popular bar on St George's Road if it was possible to smoke inside. "You're a tourist so it's ok," was his reply. Only one bar visited by this newspaper seemed to be making an effort to stop people smoking illegally, with a bartender telling people to light-up outside. Three pairs of uniformed police officers were seen patrolling the area in the early hours of January 30, but this did little to deter revellers from lighting up inside. Shortly after 1 a.m., The Sunday Times followed two officers inside a relatively empty bar on St George's Road, where it was apparent that some patrons were smoking. However, they simply threw their cigarettes on the floor while the police chatted to a staff member. Despite the defiance of smokers witnessed by The Sunday Times, Philip Fenech, president of the hospitality section within the Malta Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises - GRTU, said the police were very strict about enforcing all licensing laws in Paceville, including the smoking ban. "Many owners complain to me that the police won't leave them alone," he said. His comments were backed by Jonathan Grima, manager of Havana club, who accused the police of "overdoing it" and said they sometimes visited his venue more than 10 times per night. Mr Fenech said security staff should also be preventing people from smoking inside, but their priority was safety and the prevention of trouble when customers were intoxicated. People caught smoking in enclosed public spaces by the police can be fined not less than €232 and not more than €1,164 for a first offence. While establishments in which people smoke illegally are also liable for a fine, Mr Fenech said owners are fined much less than they were in the beginning, when some owners were taken to court and found not to be responsible for their customers' actions. There were discussions between the GRTU and the police in the months after the ban was introduced and enforcement was made more "practical". In general, owners of establishments are only arraigned if they are seen to be encouraging smoking by providing ashtrays, not displaying No Smoking signs, or obviously ignoring widespread smoking, according to Mr Fenech. Mr Grima said bar owners were never arraigned by the police, but health inspectors did occasionally fine owners "as if we can ever be responsible for anyone smoking in our clubs". The lack of fines for owners means it is not in the interest of bars to stop people smoking illegally, according to a 40-year-old doorman at one of Paceville's most established nightspots on St George's Road. The man, who did not wish to be named, said his weekends were "a living nightmare" because of passive smoking. "When the ban was first introduced it was heaven. Owners were being fined, so we needed to make sure no one smoked inside. Now owners are not being fined, we are told to be more relaxed about it because we don't want to lose customers," he said. The doorman added that the problem becomes much worse after 1 a.m., when the venue closes its doors to comply with sound regulations. The Sunday Times visited these premises after 1 a.m. on January 30 and lingering smoke was clearly visible as customers lit up freely. While smokers may enjoy the freedom to defy the law, some non-smokers are not happy. Wilfrid Buttigieg, 30, purposely avoids Paceville when possible because he detests passive smoking. “Paceville seems to be a lawless area when it comes to smoking - some people are so arrogant about it, yet nothing is done. It might only be a minority of sm okers, but a minority is enough to put everyone's health at risk,” he said. The police did not respond when asked if they had made enforcement more “practical” by not arraigning owners if customers were found to be breaching the smoking ban. Police figures show that 2,862 people were charged in 2008 and 2,564 were charged in 2009 for breaking the law on smoking in enclosed public spaces.





Keith Farrugia, San Ġwann

The Times 5.5.2010

This weekend I attended a sold-out event at the MFCC tent at Ta' Qali organised by Knockout Events. The entry ticket clearly stated that “No smoking is allowed” and, although under Maltese law it is forbidden to smoke in indoor public places, a good number of party goers where smoking to their heart's content. The smoke inhalation was unbearable. I was not even able to witness the artiste perform as I was forced to leave prematurely due to watery eyes and a seriously blocked nose coupled with a sore throat. My night out was ruined by the selfish few who blatantly ignore the law. Furthermore, being a crowded event, I constantly dodged getting burnt in the face by cigarettes held at eye level in front of me, beside me and behind me. I was literally surrounded by smokers. To add insult to injury, out of curiosity I told the security personnel at the door that attendees were illegally smoking indoors. He replied that he couldn't do anything about it and it was best I took it up with the police outside the building. On my way to the car I did just that, where the reply I got from a police officer was that he was not in a position to do anything about the situation as it was up to the security personnel to curb the smoking. It was not a very reassuring answer, since the police have the duty to prevent any criminal offence no matter where it is occurring and even more so when it is brought to their attention. Unfortunately, non-smokers are not able to enjoy a smoke-free environment. Knockout Events could very well live up to its name as with such smoke levels and unashamed lack of action, one is definitely knocked out.






The Sunday Times 27.11.2011

An exercise carried out by this newspaper last year revealed how the ban was being ignored with impunity by many establishments in Paceville, though the problem exists in several other places. Nothing has changed and yet the government has still announced plans to ban smoking in all public areas from 2013. One of the most disturbing consequences of the refusal by the authorities – it cannot be termed as anything else – to enforce a law they themselves enacted is that it is mainly young people who are bearing the brunt. They will be the ones walking into hospital with heart and respiratory problems in future. There is a strong argument to suggest that this is a much more culpable act than an Englishman who grows cannabis plants in his home. Yet either through inertia, negligence or convenience – in the form of pandering to business interests – the authorities refuse to see it.





Louise Cachia

The Times 23.2.2012

After several weeks of absence, a few days ago I decided to go to Paceville. It was quite an enjoyable evening of friends, music and dancing. Oh, and cigarettes of course! Now, I do not smoke, but after a few minutes inside a bar, the stench on me was saying otherwise. And then came the “morning after Paceville”, where my hair, clothes and bedroom stank as though I had spent the evening smoking a packet. Not to mention the breathing consequences: sneezing, coughing and a very irritable thoat. This story repeats itself with my every venture to Paceville’s bars and discos; pity there is no law in Malta prohibiting smoking in enclosed public spaces... Oh wait, there is! But apparently, this law is there to be ignored. If it is indeed true that this year the government is giving an extra push against smoking, as quoted in The Times on February 4, then it’s about time a law that was introduced a good eight years ago is taken seriously and enforced.







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