San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lawmakers negotiate changes to anti-smoking bill

A revised version of the bill aiming to control smoking in Costa Rica will be submitted within the next few days, though lawmakers are still negotiating many of the changes, the daily La Nación reported.

Costa Rica’s effort to ban smoking in public places began in 2008 as part of an agreement proposed by the World Health Organization. The bill has since faced delays and disputes in the legislature.

The original bill includes articles prohibiting smoking in workplaces and closed spaces as well as recreation and sport sites. Other provisions include putting anti-smoking messages and pictures on cigarette boxes.

The Legislative Assembly’s Social Issues Commission has spent several weeks modifying aspects of the bill such as the amount of the proposed cigarette tax and which types of public places will ban smoking.

The revised bill may have two opinions on issues where agreements have not been reached, according to Rita Chavez, president of the legislative commission working on the bill. The largest disagreement in Congress is whether to completely ban smoking in public places or to create designated smoking areas, she told La Nacion.

“There is agreement on some places to be smoke-free, except for bars and restaurants,” she said.

Other changes in the bill include raising the proposed cigarette tax by ₡100 ($.020) to ₡2,000 ($4) per pack. The revenue would fund anti-smoking and cancer prevention programs.

About 14 percent of Costa Ricans smoke cigarettes, according to a study by the Social Security System. Organizations such as the National Anti-Smoking Network of Costa Rica and the Ministry of Health favor the ban to prevent tobacco-related deaths and the effects of cigarette smoke on children.

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