Ban on public smoking moves slowly at legislature

A proposed law that will ban smoking in public, including bars and restaurants, is slowly making its way through the legislature.

The measure would prohibit any kind of tobacco advertising, make illegal sponsorships by tobacco companies and specify new warnings for cigarette packages.

The measure is consistent with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first international public health treaty, which requires nations to apply a series of policies and measures aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and protecting people from secondhand smoke.

Costa Rica ratified the treaty in 2008 but still has not passed the required legislation.

The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Sociales has been studying the proposal, # 17371. By signing the treaty and ratifying it, the country agreed to enact certain prohibitions on tobacco within five years.

The proposal says that it will be against the law to smoke in public areas such as bars, restaurants, dance clubs, shopping centers, and sporting events. If the law passes, there will also be new restrictions to the sale and packaging of the cigarettes. And
imported cigarettes will not be sold if they do not meet the new requirements.

There will also be a ban on all tobacco related advertisements and publicity. This includes a ban on any type of tobacco business sponsorship and the sale of tobacco branding souvenirs or give-aways. Of 35 countries in the Americas, 29 have ratified the treaty, most recently, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. St. Kitts and Nevis, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, and the United States have only signed the treaty, implying they will make good-faith efforts to ratify it and, in the meantime, will not undermine its objectives. The Dominican Republic is the only country in the hemisphere that has neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

A.M. Costa Rica published a hemispheric report on the treaty Thursday.

In Costa Rica, the proposal has strong support in the health sector. Tobacco companies, of course, oppose it. Among other measures, the treaty calls for higher taxes on tobacco.

Quick legislative action is unlikely because lawmakers are engaged in prolonged discussions of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda’s major tax increases.

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