Smokefree environments in Latin America: on the road to real change?

Prev Control. 2008 Jan 1;3(1):21-35. doi: 10.1016/j.precon.2007.09.001.


Latin American countries are experiencing an increasing burden of tobacco-related diseases. Smoke free policies are cost-effective interventions to control both exposure of nonsmokers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand tobacco smoke and to reduce the prevalence of smoking and its consequent morbidity and mortality. The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has created momentum in Latin America to implement meaningful tobacco control policies. As of August 2007, Uruguay, two provinces and three cities in Argentina, and one state in Venezuela, had passed, regulated, and enforced 100% smokefree legislation. The tobacco industry, working through local subsidiaries, has been the strongest obstacle in achieving this goal and has prevented progress elsewhere in the region. During the 1990s, transnational tobacco companies Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco developed voluntary initiatives ("Courtesy of Choice" and "Environmental Tobacco Smoke Consultancy" programs) to prevent effective smokefree policies. Another important barrier in the region has often been a weak and fragmented local civil society. Opportunities in the region that should be taken into account are a high public support for smokefree environments and increasing capacity building available from international collaboration on tobacco control. Policymakers and tobacco control advocates should prioritize the implementation of smokefree policies in Latin America to protect nonsmokers, reduce smoking prevalence with its economic and disease burden in the region.