San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Change to anti-smoking bill favors smokers

The Health Ministry and anti-smoking groups Monday urged lawmakers not to water down an anti-smoking bill currently being studied by a Legislative Assembly commission, the daily La Nación reported.

Backers of the bill in its previous form say that Social Affairs Commission legislator Maria Luisa Avila modified it to favor smokers and tobacco companies by potentially allowing restaurants, bars and other businesses the option to create separate indoor areas for smokers. That change would contravene the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty to reduce smoking in public areas, which Costa Rica ratified in 2008.

The bill will stay in the commission until President Laura Chinchilla’s administration calls it up for discussion before the general assembly. Once out of commission, lawmakers would debate the bill before the entire assembly and could modify it again before it goes for a final vote.  

Currently, five of nine legislators in the Social Affairs Commission support the bill.

The Health Ministry, the National Anti-Smoking Network of Costa Rica and other anti-smoking groups continue pressuring for a ban on smoking in public places. On Monday, the groups launched an Internet campaign via Facebook, called “Que Prohíban Fumar en Sitios Públicos en Costa Rica” (Prohibit Smoking in Public Places in Costa Rica).

Daniel Salas, director of health marketing at the Health Ministry said, “The idea is that we can target young Internet users with popular messages from famous television stars.”

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