San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Days Are Numbered For Smoking in Public

Costa Rica is one step closer to banning smoking in public places, including bars.

The Legislative Assembly ratified the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Control Convention on Monday.

In 2005, Costa Rica signed the convention, which requires countries to take steps to regulate, minimize and penalize tobacco sales, but it has taken the assembly three years to ratify it.

Citizen Action Party (PAC) legislator Orlando Hernández, one of the proponents of the agreement, said the assembly still needs to pass follow-up legislation to ban smoking in public places, including bars, increase taxes on tobacco products, ban advertising and require better labeling and health warnings.

Hernández said that, previously, there was a lack of political will to ratify the agreement, but that dynamic has 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, the World Health Organization, the Health Ministry and the National Anti-Tobacco Network – we finally understood. Now we’re obligated to follow through with the next stage.”

Hernández said the convention still has to survive a review by the

Constitutional Court

, but he didn’t foresee any problems.

The convention has been signed by 168 countries, according to WHO’s Web site.


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