San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican court halts anti-smoking bill pending constitutional review

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) on Friday ordered the Executive Branch to suspend the signing and publication of a recently passed anti-smoking bill.

At 11:30 a.m., the Sala IV responded to a consultation made by 10 lawmakers to determine if the new law contradicts constitutional principles.

The Legislative Assembly approved the anti-tobacco bill in a second debate Feb. 27, and the bill awaited President Laura Chinchilla’s signature to be published into law in the official government newspaper La Gaceta.

The process is now stalled until Sala IV rules on the bill’s constitutionality. The court has 30 days to issue a ruling. If the Sala IV determines certain aspects of the bill are unconstitutional,  it could delay the implementation of anti-smoking reforms even longer. The decision came despite the bill’s approval by lawmakers in a 45-2 vote.

Rita Chaves, of the Access Without Exclusion Party, expressed outrage at the court’s decision through her Twitter account. Chaves, who led the committee drafting the bill, wrote “not a single law exists that permits the court to the executive branch to not enact a law.”

However, the president stated she would abide by the court’s decision.

The bill bans smoking in places such as bars, restaurants, public buildings, bus stops and taxi stands. Individual cigarettes will be taxed an extra ₡20 (4 cents). The bill requires cigarette packs to display text and photo warnings on at least 50 percent of the box. Guatemala, Honduras and Panama already have approved similar measures in past years.

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