B.V.I. Ignites New Smoking Ban

Restrictions ban smoking in public areas such as bars, restaurants, hotel rooms, rental cars, and beaches. "At Sea" from our July 27, 2007, CW Reckonings

In a land where rum rules and sand and sun conspire to encourage hedonism, you can drop your clothes, your taboos, but please, don't smoke.

In response to the World Health Organization's global drive to curb smoking, the British Virgin Islands is one of the latest countries to hop on the bandwagon by instituting new regulations on tobacco use in public.

The restrictions, put into place in late spring, are vast, and besides obvious public areas such as bars and restaurants, smoking is now banned in hotel rooms, rental cars, and yes, even on beaches.

Will this have a negative effect on tourism?

"It's had no effect on my business whatsoever," said Chris Syms, a nonsmoker and owner of De Loose Mongoose bar and restaurant in Trellis Bay on Tortola. "I'm required to post 'No Smoking' signs, which I did. And I have an outside bar where people are required to walk 50 feet away from the establishment to smoke."

Are people heeding these new rules?

"People are absolutely complying," said Syms. "Though until now, authorities have just been issuing warnings to violators. But beginning August 1, they're going to start instituting fines of $50 for each offense. And I can get fined if I allow anyone to smoke."

Van Perry, brand manger of The Moorings, doesn't see any big changes with these new regulations, either. "We've always discouraged our charterers from smoking on board, especially belowdecks," he said. "It's discussed in the briefing. We simply ask them to be respectful and remind them that other people will be using the boat after them. We've rarely had any problems."

But another Tortola resident, who didn't want her name used, has a different perspective. "It's a touchy subject, there are so many variables," she said of the smoking ban. "Their point is that it protects restaurant and bar workers from second-hand smoke," she said. "But what if the bartender is a smoker himself? Or his customers want to smoke? He might be thinking more about his tip at the end of the night."