Cuba to ban smoking in public places

Campaign News | Thursday, 20 January 2005

New lawe takes effect on February 6

HAVANA Jan 20 - Cuba may be world famous for its tobacco but the government - led by ex-smoker Fidel Castro - has decided to ban smoking in public places starting next month.

The ban will take place February 6, just one part of a broader anti-smoking initiative, authorities say. Tobacco products also will then be sold only to people over 16; there is currently no age minimum.

And cigarette vending machines will go the way of the dodo, the government says.

More than half of Cuban adults and a large percentage of young adults smoke, mainly strong cigarettes.

So ingrained is the smoking habit that government rationing cards distributed to every Cuban for basic foodstuffs give those born before 1955 four packs of cigarettes a month at a bargain seven cents (US) each. The regular price per pack is 26 cents (US).

The government said that the new initiatives, aside from underscoring the health consequences of smoking, are meant to respect non-smokers' rights.

The smoking ban will apply to all closed public venues including offices, theatres, buses, taxis, trains, schools, food preparation areas and sports arenas.

In open and semi-open public places - presumably most restaurants - smoking and non-smoking sections will be set up.

Castro, once a passionate smoker of Cuba's legendary cigars, snuffed out his last one in 1986 and officially took up anti-smoking campaigning. But this is the government's biggest, broadest bid yet to put a dent in Cuba's nicotine fix.

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