No if, ands or butts, tobacco ban has supporter and opponents

Fredrico Castro
. . . he’s for it

Anyone who tries to light a cigarette in a park will hear from nearby citizens that the action is not allowed and be immediately directed toward the streets.

While in the street, that person can quickly observe other smokers congregating outside government businesses and bars, or persons walking by puffing as they head toward their destination. These actions, plus the collection of butts on the street, are all a result of the new smoking ban that went into effect last year.

The law, Ley General de Control del Tabaco y sus Efectos Nocivos en la Salud, was signed by President Laura Chinchilla March 22, 2012. It made it illegal for persons to smoke in any public space including bars, restaurants and bus and taxi stops. It also raised the taxes on cigarettes.

Since its enactment, the smoking ban has been met with both criticism and praise. With no
other choice, smokers say they have learned to accept the law.

“It’s a good thing,” said Ingrid Abbott, as she finished a cigarette outside a phone store in Calle Chino. “People have the right to have smoke-free spaces.”

Ms. Abbott also added that the ban was just in public places and not people’s home and cars, so to her it’s not that bad.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
The law has increased the number of butts in the street.

Fredrico Castro, who enjoyed a cigarette outside a mini mart, shared the same sentiment, adding that he didn’t have to smoke as much.

Critics of the ban come from businesses such as bars, who say they are losing business to those going to open areas. Depending on a person’s smoking habit, they may have to leave the bar several times to smoke while dining and drinking at the establishment.

This also raises the question of whether smokers will decrease visits during the rainy season.

“They allow prostitution in bars, but you can’t smoke,” said Michael Yafanaro, who ran Bar Joe B y Karen on Calle 7 for three years.

“They are taking away people’s right,” he added.

Before the ban, Yafanaro enjoyed smoking cigars at the front counter that looked out into the street. The ideal solution would be to accommodate smokers with a smoking area, keeping the cigarette smoke contained inside instead of releasing it into the streets where anyone who is walking will be subjected, he said.

Yafanaro also expressed another concern that the smoking ban forces persons to be in a street where it is unsafe and that thieves can easily take advantage of those who just stepped outside to enjoy a quick cigarette.

Currently, police don’t issue tickets to smokers. The Ministerio de Salud is in charge of regulating the law, and it’s staff has provided nearly 700 training workshops to municipality police.

As of December 2012, the health ministry had conducted 5,882 inspections and 10 fines were given for noncompliance with the law.

“Both commercial premises and individuals are complying with the regulation. However the ministry will remain vigilant so as to ensure the protection of the health of the population” said Sisy Castillo, vice-minister of health.

As of now there is no exact data on how the ban has effected public health, said Rodolfo Hernández Gómez, director of Hospital de Niños, but it is making an impact.

“With a doubt, it has improved the hospital environment,” said Hernández.

When it comes to a decrease in asthma and other lung related illnesses, it is ultimately up to the parents to keep children away from second hand smoke.

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