LATIN AMERICAN SMOKING POLICIES

The OAS journal, "Americas," reports that Latin American governments are taking decisive action to curtail the habit of smoking.  Tobacco use has been identified as the leading cause of preventable death in both North America and South America.  The United States and Canada have 475,000 smoking deaths annually while there are 150,000 smoking related deaths in Latin America every year.  Chile and Argentina report the highest percentage of Latin American smokers (around 50%) while Colombia has the lowest in the region with around 22 percent.  Latin American governments have recognized that smoking requires strong deterrents since it is deeply ingrained in local customs and traditions.  Lawmakers from around the region are currently taking the initiative to formulate a bold legal response that includes stringent measures and versatile provisions for effective implementation.  Uruguay has instituted toughest anti smoking laws in Latin America with provisions for severe penalties for smoking in offices and other commercial locations.  Over one third of the country's residents are smokers and tobacco use accounts for 5,500 deaths each year.  Brazil has introduced the most comprehensive restrictions on tobacco use in the region.  The country is regulating smoking in public places such as restaurants, hospitals, buses, bars and theaters.  Brazil has also placed strict limitations on cigarette advertising and the country provides free anti smoking medications at over 900 clinics.  Brazil has demonstrated considerable fortitude in representing the public interest in a country that is the world's third largest tobacco producer after China and India.  Chile has the highest rates of teenage smoking in Latin America, so the country is implementing programs to discourage initial tobacco use among the country's youth.  Chile has also instituted stringent regulation of second hand smoke and there are additional restrictions on smoking in enclosed public areas.  The country bans smoking entirely in government offices and schools, while restaurants and other commercial establishments are required to limit smoking to designated areas.  Chile's government is emphasizing a complete intervention program to curb the smoking habit in a country that has an alarming annual death rate of fourteen thousand.  As part of Chile's massive public information campaign, there is a stipulation that at least fifty percent of all cigarette packaging contain warnings about the health risks of smoking.

Brandon Press