Mexico City’s New Smoke-Free Law Sets Example for Latin America and World

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Feb. 26 2008

Washington, D.C. — Setting important examples for Latin America and the world, both the Mexico City legislature and the national Mexican legislature today have taken significant action to reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll.

Mexico City’s Federal District Legislative Assembly (ALDF) has approved historic legislation requiring that all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, be 100 percent smoke-free.

The Mexico City legislation is a major step forward in protecting the health of the city’s 15 million residents and workers and adds momentum to the growing, global smoke-free movement. We hope that Mexico City, as one of the world’s largest cities, will serve as a catalyst for similar smoke-free action throughout Latin America and around the world.

In Latin America, Mexico City joins Uruguay, Panama (new law to be implemented April 2008), and three Argentinean provinces in having comprehensive smoke-free laws. Brazil is expected to consider such legislation later this year.

Worldwide, France, Thailand, Turkey, and 11 German states have already adopted or implemented smoke-free laws in 2008. Other countries that have previously implemented strong smoke-free laws include: Bermuda, Bhutan, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Eleven of 13 Canadian provinces, seven of eight Australian states, and 23 of 50 U.S. states (along with the District of Columbia) have also adopted such laws.

Mexico City joins other great world cities that are already or are about to be smoke-free, including New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Bangkok. It is particularly encouraging that strong smoke-free measures have been adopted in many countries and cities, like Mexico City, where smoking has been considered part of the culture.

Increasingly, governments are recognizing that, to effectively protect the health of their citizens, they must take action against a tobacco epidemic that the World Health Organization estimates will claim one billion lives worldwide this century unless urgent action is taken.

In addition to the Mexico City legislation, the Mexican Senate today joined the Chamber of Deputies in approving national tobacco control legislation that will establish nationwide smoking restrictions, require larger health warnings on tobacco products and restrict tobacco marketing.

This legislation is an important step forward for Mexico, but it falls far short of the strong measures called for by the WHO’s tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Mexico was the first Latin American country to ratify in 2004. We urge the Mexican government to build on the legislation adopted today and to follow the lead of Mexico City’s more comprehensive smoke-free legislation in implementing the national law.

There is an urgent need for action to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke around the world. Earlier this month, the WHO issued a landmark report concluding that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world today. Tobacco use already kills 5.4 million people a year worldwide. Unchecked, that number is projected to rise to more than eight million by 2030, with more than 80 percent of these deaths in developing nations.

Nations can save hundreds of millions of lives by implementing proven tobacco control measures recommended by the WHO and other public health experts. These include comprehensive smoke-free laws; increases in tobacco taxes; large pictorial health warnings; comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships; effective tobacco cessation and education programs; and effective monitoring of tobacco use and tobacco control measures.

More information on secondhand smoke and smoke-free laws:

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. Public health authorities worldwide have concluded that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.

  • Scientific authorities have also concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that the only effective way to protect workers and the public is to enact 100 percent smoke-free laws that cover all indoor workplaces and public places, including all restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.
  • Other approaches, such as designated smoking areas and separate ventilation systems, do not provide adequate health protection.