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Panama stomps out smoking in clubs, pubs and restaurants

May 13th, 2008:

Smoking cigarettes in offices, bars, restaurants and nightclubs is against the law in Panama after a smoking ban took effect last week - and residents say it's working. "You could tell the difference immediately," says Mario Fonseca, a lawyer in Panama City. Fonseca says he's not a smoker, but lights up a cigarette occasionally. "All my friends are happy, smokers and non-smokers," he said. "It's a complete change - beautiful!" The law prohibits people from lighting up in indoor spaces that also include transport terminals and many other locales considered a workplace. The ban goes further than a prior clampdown measure, the March 2005 Executive Decree 17, under which venues in the hospitality sector created separate sections for smokers. Now they have to go entirely smoke free. (more)

Businesses that do not follow the rules face fines of up to $5,000, or even $100,000.

Health Minister Camilo Alleyne, who announced the drafting of the new legislation last April, said the lenient days are over. "Now if they (officials) hand you a fine and you don't comply . a judge will call you in, and they're going to come looking for you," Alleyne told the daily Panamá América.

The ban also aims to prevent cigarette companies from advertising, sponsoring events or promoting their products. Cigarette packs also must come with the health warning, Fumar puede causar la muerte, or Smoking can cause death.

Ministry spokeswoman Mayanín Rodríguez told reporters that anti-smoking personnel will deploy on private and public establishments to verify their patrons and employees are obeying the law, newswire EFE reported.

More than 2,500 Panamanians die every year from smoking-related illness, according to the Health Ministry.
 
Contributed by: Don Winner
By Alex Leff for the Tico Times


Written By: mitch@ecolad.com
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