San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ticos Huff and Puff The Most in C. America

Costa Rica has the highest rate of smokers in Central America, lighting up an annual average of 1,127 cigarettes per person, a new study by the Pan American Health Organization shows.

The world average is 883 cigarettes per person per day, according to the World Health Organization statistics.

In Central America, the second-highest smoking rate is in Panama, where each person averages 851 cigarettes per year, and Nicaraguans 738, according to the study.

Guatemalans were at the bottom of the smoking chain, lighting up just 345 cigarettes per year per person.

Costa Rica’s tobacco habit has alarmed the nation’s authorities.

The administration is seeking to spark a “wake-up call for smokers for them to understand how harmful the vice is for them,” Health Minister María Luisa Avila told the daily La República.

The Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Institute (IAFA) estimates 700,000 Ticos smoke and 85 percent of the population are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Tobacco is not just cutting into smokers’ lungs. Ticos spend about $32 a month on cigarettes, or about $385 annually – not including the estimated hospital cost for smoking related diseases, according to IAFA.

In July, the Legislative Assembly approved the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which restricts cigarette ads and reduces the number of places smoking is allowed.

Lawmaker Orlando Hernández of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) is planning to introduce legislation soon that would help Costa Rica comply with the convention. The bill would ban smoking in bars, restaurants, bus stops, schools and other public places, said legislative aid María Cecilia Rodríguez.

–EFE and Tico Times


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