Mar. 23 2012
WASHINGTON, DC — The Costa Rican government has taken a momentous step to protect the health of its citizens by enacting a comprehensive tobacco control law. Signed by President Laura Chinchilla on Thursday morning, the new law will protect Costa Ricans from the deadly toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke, and add Costa Rica to the growing list of Latin American countries standing up to the tobacco industry.
The new law requires bars, restaurants and public places to be 100 percent smoke-free, increases tobacco taxes and severely restricts the advertising of tobacco products. Furthermore, the law authorizes graphic pictorial warning labels that will cover 50 percent of both the front and back sides of cigarette packs sold in the country. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joins international health advocates in congratulating Costa Rica for enacting this life-saving measure into law.
"We applaud President Chinchilla and the Costa Rican government for taking strong action to reduce tobacco use and save countless lives," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Costa Rica has joined a powerful movement sweeping across Latin America, a region which serves as an example for the world and sends a strong message in the fight against the global tobacco epidemic."
Over the past five years, Latin America has made dramatic progress in combating tobacco use. Costa Rica now joins 13 smoke-free countries in Latin America, where in December, 2011 Brazil became the largest country in the world to go 100 percent smoke-free.
Including Costa Rica, eight countries in Latin America now have graphic warning labels covering at least 30 percent of the cigarette pack and 11 countries have enacted strong restrictions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Additionally, five countries in Latin America have a tobacco tax at or above two-thirds of the retail price, a measure proven to reduce tobacco consumption.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death around the world, killing nearly 6 million people annually. In Costa Rica, 42 percent of adolescents are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places and 80 percent of smokers reported having their first cigarette before the age of 19.
The new law fulfills Costa Rica’s promise to protect public health after acceding to the world’s first international health treaty - the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - in August, 2008. Unless countries around the world follow Latin America’s lead in implementing proven measures of tobacco control, this century tobacco will kill one billion people across the globe.