Smoking rates: Lighting up in Latin America

Credit: Ivan Alvarado

The number of countries with anti-smoking laws is growing, and Costa Rica might soon join the ranks.

Lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban smoking in some public places and raise the tax on cigarettes.

Costa Rica has been trying to pass the ban since 2008, but the bill has couldn't get through the legislature.

If it finally passes, Costa Rica won't be alone among Latin American countries with anti-smoking laws.

Of course, just because laws are on the books, doesn't mean everyone is snuffing out their smokes.

Here's a roundup of smoking laws around the region. (Percentages indicate the percentage of adults who smoke, according to World Health Organization statistics.)

Argentina (22%): Argentina's anti-tobacco laws got much stricter last month under a new law that bans smoking in all enclosed public spaces. The law also bans advertising and sponorsorship and requires health warnings. Smoking is still permitted in places like patios, balconies and terraces.

Brazil (15%): Smoking has been banned in most public spaces since 1996. Brazil's 200,000 annual tobacco-related deaths represent one-third of the region's total smoking-related deaths, according to Pan-American Health Organization. In 2009, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais passed strict smoking laws that would prohibit smoking in all public spaces, indoors or outdoors.

Chile (34%): Chileans are still the heaviest smokers in the region despite a strict anti-tobacco law. Passed in 2006, the law banned tobacco advertising in the media and prohibited smoking in all sorts of buildings, including schools, gas stations, gyms, supermarkets and malls. But a significant percentage of Chileans continue to light up.

Cuba: In the land of cigars, four out of every 10 Cubans smoke, according to government statistics. In 2005, the socialist island banned smoking in theaters, stores, buses, taxis and other enclosed public areas, including most restaurants.

Guatemala (4%): The Central American country passed a complete smoking ban in December 2008. The ban includes all workplaces including health care facilities, government buildings, schools, bars and restaurants. Lately tobacco companies have been pressuring the government to loosen the restrictions.

Honduras: In February, Honduras passed a smoking law that allows family members to file complaints over secondhand smoke in their homes. The law bans smoking in most public and private closed places.

Mexico (8%): Smoking in hospitals and airports has been banned for 15 years. As with many causes in Mexico, the capital Mexico City led the way toward a stricter ban by prohibiting all smoking in restaurants, bars, schools, buses and taxis in 2008. Several months later, the Mexico City law was adopted nationwide.

Uruguay (22%): Uruguay was the first country in the region to ban smoking in public places and has some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the world. It requires large health warnings on packages and bans advertising. Tobacco giant Philip Morris has filed suit against Uruguay arguing the restrictions violate a bilateral investment treaty.

Venezuela: Just this May, Venezuela introduced a ban on smoking smoking in all enclosed public and commercial spaces. Owners must post the ban in their establishments or face fines.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

Hannah McGoldrick contributed to this story

Graphics from the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic

Related Stories