Landmark for Global Health: With… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Landmark for Global Health: With Addition of Paraguay, All of South America Is Now Protected by Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 12, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the signing last week of a presidential decree in Paraguay banning smoking and e-cigarette use in indoor public places and crowded outdoor spaces, South American countries have achieved a dramatic landmark in public health: The citizens of every South American country are now protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke, making it the first multi-nation continent to achieve this benchmark. With this policy, Paraguay has joined the rest of South America in protecting its citizens’ health and right to breathe clean, smoke-free air, setting a powerful example for the entire world.

All citizens of South American countries, around 430 million people altogether, are now protected by laws requiring smoke-free public places and workplaces. These laws also ban designated smoking areas – a common loophole that weakens smoke-free protections and is often promoted by the tobacco industry.

This stunning progress is the result of years of commitment and action from political leaders and civil society groups in South American countries working to fulfill their obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the global tobacco control treaty. 2020 marked the 15th anniversary of the FCTC. When the FCTC first came into force, only one country in South America, Uruguay, provided its citizens with broad, effective protection against secondhand smoke. 

Comprehensive smoke-free laws have proven to be popular with the public, quickly improve healthand do not harm business. The scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to implement comprehensive smoke-free environments that apply to all workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.

South America’s success is particularly good news as countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has never been more important to keep our lungs healthy. One of the best ways to do this is to quit smoking and vaping, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has urged policymakers to take strong action to reduce smoking and vaping.

As tobacco companies aggressively fight proven policies to reduce tobacco use and seek to rebrand themselves as concerned with health, even as they exploit the current pandemic to market their harmful and addictive products, it is critical that governments and health advocates keep up the fight to pass and strongly implement the proven tobacco control measures mandated by the WHO FCTC.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds the years of hard work and tenacity poured into the tobacco control movement by South American political leaders and health champions. This achievement also follows years of support from Bloomberg Philanthropies for eliminating tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and around the world. In country after country, including but not limited to Uruguay and Brazil, visionary public health leaders have put their support behind tobacco control laws and stood up to tobacco companies in parliament and in the courts. 

We urge governments in South America to continue to pass and implement strong tobacco control laws including increased tobacco taxes, large graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, and bans on tobacco advertising, and we urge countries around the world to follow the example of South America.