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Guatemala's Congress Takes Action to Save Lives By Approving Strong Smoke-free Legislation

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Guatemala's Congress on November 24, 2008, approved sweeping smoke-free legislation requiring that indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, be 100 percent smoke-free. This legislation is a major step forward in protecting the health of Guatemala's 13 million residents and workers from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke and adds momentum to the growing smoke-free movement in Latin America and the world.


If signed into law, this legislation would place Guatemala among the ranks of leading smoke-free jurisdictions in the world. It prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, work places and all modes of public transport. We urge President Alvaro Colom to sign the legislation immediately and start the clock ticking on the sixty days before it takes effect under Guatemalan law. We also urge the Ministry of Health to write strong regulations and immediately begin preparations for implementing the law so that Guatemala may join its Latin American neighbors in addressing the tobacco epidemic.

In Latin America, Guatemala joins Uruguay, Panama, Mexico, and five Argentinean provinces in having strong smoke-free laws. Worldwide, other countries and jurisdictions that have adopted strong smoke-free laws include Bermuda, Bhutan, Djibouti, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Ireland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom. In Australia, Canada and the United States, a growing number of states, provinces and territories have adopted smoke-free laws.

Increasingly, governments are recognizing that, to effectively protect the health of their citizens, they must take action against a tobacco epidemic that the World Health Organization estimates will claim one billion lives worldwide this century unless urgent action is taken. A 2003 survey found that 23.9 percent of males over age 18 in Guatemala are smokers. Another survey showed that tobacco use among females is rising, and that 36.3 percent of Guatemala's youth are exposed to tobacco use in the home.

Tobacco use already kills 5.4 million people a year worldwide. Unchecked, that number is projected to rise to more than eight million by 2030, with more than 80 percent of these deaths in developing nations. Guatemala should implement the smoke-free law as quickly and strongly as possible. We hope that the leadership of smoke-free champions such as Diputada Zury Rios, who sponsored the legislation that was approved by Guatemala's visionary Congress, will result in a major public health victory for Guatemala.

Facts about Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws

  • The science is beyond dispute: Secondhand smoke is harmful and deadly. Public health authorities worldwide, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have concluded that secondhand tobacco smoke is a major cause of serious diseases and premature death in non-smoking adults and children. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 60 known to cause cancer. It is a scientifically proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma, sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight.
  • Everyone has a right to breathe clean air. The scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is 100 percent smoke-free environments. Smoke-free laws must not permit any smoking indoors and must apply to all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues. Designated smoking areas and separate ventilation do not provide adequate health protections. Scientific authorities have concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • The WHO international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, requires 100 percent smoke-free areas without exceptions. Formal guidelines on implementing the treaty's provisions on secondhand smoke, adopted by the treaty's governing body in 2007, provide that only 100 percent smoke-free laws that include all indoor workplaces and public places meet the treaty's requirements.
  • Smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Numerous scientific studies have found that smoke-free laws do not have a negative impact on the hospitality or tourism industry and in some cases may have had a positive impact.

Based in Washington, D.C., the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world.As part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, the Campaign works with governments and non-governmental organizations in promoting and implementing public policies to reduce tobacco use. Visit

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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