Cuba bans smoking in public places

Campaign News | Monday, 7 February 2005

New laws aimed at saving lives

Cuba - the home of the fine cigar - has brought in tough new regulations on tobacco smoking in public places.

It is now banned in most work places, cigarette machines are being removed and it will be illegal to sell tobacco products close to schools.

The Cuban authorities say they have taken a series of measures to fight smoking, as part of a strategy to improve the people's quality of life.

According to the new law it is forbidden to smoke in public places, air-conditioned or closed rooms, offices, meeting halls, theatres, cinemas and video halls.

Restrictions also affect drivers and passengers on public transportation, and the personnel working at sports facilities and hospitals.

The latter includes patients, companions and visitors at all facilities of the National Health System, as well as in educational centers.

The law also says that cigarettes cannot be sold to children under 16, or less than 100 metres from a school.

Almost half of all Cuban adults smoke, and tobacco and cigar exports are important to the country's economy.

The laws are among toughest anti-smoking regulations in the world.

In the capital Havana, managers of restaurants and bars said they intended to set up non-smoking areas.

Cuba says it wants to change the attitude of its population towards tobacco.

It will be battling a culture that goes back five centuries. Many Cubans start the habit in their early teens.

Tobacco and cigar exports generate more than $200m (£107m) a year. But every year some 6,000 Cubans die from smoking-related illnesses.

It is thought to be an attempt to increase the average life expectancy here that drove the Cuban government to act now.

President Castro - a one-time keen cigar smoker - gave up in the mid-1980s.

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