Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the signing last week of a presidential decree in Paraguay banning smoking and e-cigarette use in indoor public places and crowded outdoor spaces, South American countries have achieved a dramatic landmark in public health: The citizens of every South American country are now protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke, making it the first multi-nation continent to achieve this benchmark. With this policy, Paraguay has joined the rest of South America in protecting its citizens’ health and right to breathe clean, smoke-free air, setting a powerful example for the entire world.
All citizens of South American countries, around 430 million people altogether, are now protected by laws requiring smoke-free public places and workplaces. These laws also ban designated smoking areas – a common loophole that weakens smoke-free protections and is often promoted by the tobacco industry.
This stunning progress is the result of years of commitment and action from political leaders and civil society groups in South American countries working to fulfill their obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the global tobacco control treaty. 2020 marked the 15th anniversary of the FCTC. When the FCTC first came into force, only one country in South America, Uruguay, provided its citizens with broad, effective protection against secondhand smoke.
Comprehensive smoke-free laws have proven to be popular with the public, quickly improve healthand do not harm business. The scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to implement comprehensive smoke-free environments that apply to all workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.
As tobacco companies aggressively fight proven policies to reduce tobacco use and seek to rebrand themselves as concerned with health, even as they exploit the current pandemic, it is critical that governments and health advocates keep up the fight to pass and strongly implement the proven tobacco control measures mandated by the WHO FCTC.