Costa Rica may soon be part of the growing list of countries to adopt measures aimed at protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke and part of the 150 million plus smokers in Latin America and the Caribbean that are finding it more and more difficult to smoke in public places.
More than half the countries in the world already ban smoking in public places. Costa Rica, however, is in the half that doesn’t, not having any regulations on smoking in public places or promote the dangers of smoking and the effect of secondhand smoke.
Costa Rica’s Health Ministry has been working to push through laws to ban smoking in places like restaurants, shopping centres and office buildings, for example, as well as restrict cigarette advertising and visible warnings on cigarette packs.
The the push has not been an easy one, as authorities find strong opposition to the ban.
A revised bill, however, introduced in the legislature in the last few days may have a chance of passing through this time, with one particular change that has a positive impact on the country’s strapped financial situation, the inclusion of a tax of ¢100 per cigarette (¢2.000 for a pack of 20) that would be used to fund anti-smoking and cancer prevention programs.
It is estimated that some 15% of the people in Costa Rica smoke cigarettes according to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), perhaps more if one counts the “social” smoker, those who smoke only in social situations and don’t consider themselves smokers per se.
In Costa Rica it is not uncommon for a “non smoker” to be buying a single cigarette during a lunch or coffee break, smoking one or two or three “singles” a day, but do not consider themselves a smoker. Vendors in the downtown core sell a variety of different brands as singles to the “non smokers”.
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