San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica looks to go smoke free

The country is one step closer to passing a smoking ban in public places, including bars.

The Legislative Assembly yesterday ratified the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Control Convention. In 2005, Costa Rica signed the agreement, which requires countries to take steps to regulate, minimize and penalize tobacco sales. But is has taken the assembly three years to ratify it.

Citizen Action Party (PAC) Legislator Orlando Hernández, one of the proponents who sought to build consensus to ratify the agreement, said the assembly still needs to pass follow-up legislation to comply with its commitment.

He said a law now needs to be passed to ban smoking in public places, including bars, restaurants and night clubs, increase taxes on tobacco products, ban advertising and require better labeling and health warnings.

Hernández said there was a lack of political will previously to ratify the agreement but that dynamic changed over time.

“The key was we got a conscience,” he said. “It got to the point where we had so many people lobbying for passage – the Drug Abuse and Alcoholism Institute (IAFA), the World Health Organization, the Health Ministry and the National Anti-Tobacco Network – we finally understood. Now we’re obliged to follow through with the next stage.”

The legislator said the convention still has to survive a review by the

Constitutional Court

but he didn’t foresee any problems.

“A hundred and nine countries signed this convention and if they didn’t have any problems, I don’t see why we would,” he said.

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