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The VI territory’s new smoking ban is now being enforced. The law bans smoking in and around almost all businesses and public buildings, and in some outside areas. The law waas passed in November, but the Health Dept. granted businesses a 3-month extension to comply.

When it passed, the law’s definition of “enclosed areas” of public places and places of employment where smoking would be banned sparked controversy. Senators softened the definition and amended the law, also decriminalizing violations, making them civil offenses.

However, even though the definition of “enclosed areas” became a sticking point with the original law, Health officials at the public meetings last month said that essentially, the law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any place providing service to the public, whether those places are in an enclosed area or outside – and whether money is exchanged for services or not.

Violations can be reported to the Health Department at 712-6230.

If a person is caught smoking in a prohibited area where a no smoking sign is posted, a fine of at least $100 – but not more than $250 – can be assessed for each violation. Businesses caught breaking the law also face penalties, starting with a $250 to $400 fine, which increases for any further violations, and can go as high as $5,000.