Smokefree initiatives

Uruguay finally passed a national law on 29 February 2008, superseding the presidential decree passed on 1 March 2006. The new law is 100% smokefree and covers all public places, workplaces, public transport and some outdoor places. Designated smoking rooms are not allowed. The law is very well enforced.

A new campaign will promote not smoking in cars and at home in the presence of children.

Preparation for smokefree legislation

The process began in 2003 and the civil society tobacco control movement was strongly involved from the very start. The National Medical Association (Sindicato Medico del Uruguay) and the National Tobacco Control Alliance, as well as some Ministry of Health (MOH) authorities and PAHO (Tobacco Control Program in DC) were critical in initiating and promoting this process. In 2003 PAHO held its first smokefree workshop for Latin America in Uruguay, a landmark event after which the tobacco control movement decided to lobby for making healthcare and educational facilities, as well as official public places smokefree within two years. Outcomes were moderate.

When Dr. Vazquez, an oncologist, became President on 1 March 2005, a MOH tobacco control advisory committee (integrated by Civil Society representatives) asked him to establish a smoking ban in all public and workplaces.

On 31 May 2005 he launched a National Decree to regulate a previous decree, from 1996, that allowed designated smoking areas, but didn’t define their features clearly. The 2005 decree was so restrictive that it was almost impossible to comply with. Bar and restaurants owners association publicly complained and stated that `it would be better to set a total smoking ban ´. This got media attention. At the same time, the main shopping malls in Montevideo found that just 11% of smokers and 3.6% of their customers, would stop using their facilities if a total smoking was implemented. So, they decided not to apply designated smoking areas.

Both facts gave Government the opportunity to pass a new decree. In September 2005 the President issued a new decree banning smoking in all workplaces and public places. A smokefree environments sensitization campaign was then launched in the media with PAHO´s support . On 1 March 2006 Uruguay became smokefree.

One month before implementing the ban, the President himself launched the Campaign “Un millón de gracias” (Thanks a million!). One million signatures were collected to thank smokers for not smoking indoors places. This strategy led to a complete participation of society, smokers and non smokers, and increased public awareness.

For more information on the campaign visit The Global Smokefree Partnership at www.globalsmokefree.com/gsp/index.php?section=article&id=5&parent=1&artigo=53

Enforcement and compliance

Strong fines were set for offenders. Inspections were carried out from the very beginning of the implementation phase. Few people violated the decree and when they were fined, it resulted in media coverage. By November 2006 80% of people supported the ban. Free smoking cessation services contributed to a high level of compliance.

A 2007 air contamination evaluation in indoor public places and workplaces showed a high level compliance, but after that civil society detected some places at the interior of Uruguay that were not respecting the ban. They were denounced to the MOH and to the media.

A reinforcement campaign is still needed.

The Tobacco Epidemic Research Centre (CIET Uruguay) received funding for continuing measuring air contamination levels in indoor places and will expand this evaluation to cars and private homes, to monitor compliance and increase awareness on the harm from secondhand smoke to the whole family.

International co-operation
The Mexican Government asked Uruguay for help to develop a smokefree legislation. A Uruguayan delegation – one Parliamentarian (Dr. Asqueta), a Ministry of Health tobacco control focal point (Dr. Abascal), and the President of the Bar and Restaurant’s Owners Association, traveled to meet Parliamentarians, MOH and businessmen in Mexico. After their visit, Mexico City approved a smokefree law and the national tobacco control law was improved regarding smokefree environments.

In 2008 Dr Bianco (from CIET Uruguay and FCA) traveled to Guatemala and Colombia to cooperate with the GO Coalition and MOH to develop a strategy to introduce smokefree legislation. Both countries have since become smokefree.

This kind of cooperation could serve as a model for other regions and countries.

First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Health Service Food and Human Resources: Cigs4US.biz – Wholesale tobacco store

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