Officer, someone is smoking! Mexico implements anti-smoking law

April 6th, 2008 - 11:24 am ICT by admin  

By Andrea Sosa Cabrios
Mexico City, April 6 (DPA) “Officer! Officer! Someone is smoking on the table next to mine!” Starting Thursday, such messages started arriving on Mexico City’s 066 emergency phone line, after a restrictive anti-smoking law entered into force. The controversial legislation says that restaurants, bars, offices, hotels, universities and any other closed public spaces will have to be 100 percent smoke-free.

No separations between smokers and non-smokers will be allowed, and smoking will only be permitted in patios or open-air terraces, that is, in very few of the 35,000 such public establishments around the city.

Taxis too are to be smoke-free.

“This is bad, it separates those of us who smoke. It will be the end of the table talk after meals,” said Jose Antonio, 57, who chatted on a corner of the Paseo de la Reforma avenue with a cigarette between his fingers.

“People go to cantinas (bars) to smoke and play dominos. They are not going to leave the game to go out and smoke a cigarette,” he said.

The new legislation, approved by Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly in February, is more restrictive than federal law. Unlike the city rules, the federal laws allow smoking in public places in areas exclusively assigned to smokers.

Insistent smokers will face fines of around $50-150. Those who relapse and break the rules three times or more will also face an incommutable 36-hour prison sentence, while the businesses in question face a suspension.

To prevent irregularities from police, officers will only intervene following calls to 066, the emergency number used to alert the authorities about accidents, robberies, suicide attempts, kidnappings and other such problems.

“It is a friendly law, it is a law for health,” Mexico City’s Health Minister, Manuel Mondragon, said Thursday in favour of the new legislation.

“The idea is not to flood restaurants and nightclubs with police,” he explained.

He said that the authorities were only seeking to remove incentives for those who smoke, and to protect the health of non-smokers.

However, restaurants fear that the new restrictions will allow corrupt police officers - always ready to seize any chance to get extra cash - to make the most of the opportunity to demand bribes.

The text of the new law - in force since Thursday - will be advertised Friday, with full details about its implementation.

Some Mexico City residents were celebrating that no one can ruin their tacos with cigar vapours, but many others thought the move was disproportionate.

“How can they forbid smoking when they want to legalise marijuana?” asked the non-smoker Alejandro Sanchez, 54.

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