A Costa Rica with fewer smokers is what Health Minister María Luisa Avila said she hopes she’ll see if the Legislative Assembly this year ratifies a World Health Organization (WHO) agreement aimed at reducing smoking.
Costa Rica signed the agreement in 2003, but the assembly has not yet approved it because opponents have presented 250 motions against it since May 2005, Avila explained.
The minister said recently she hopes the assembly will ratify the agreement this year even though lawmakers have other big tasks on their agenda, namely the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
“With or without the agreement, we’re working on promoting non-smoking by rewarding smoke-free companies and carrying out educational campaigns,” she said.
The Tobacco Control Agreement is an initiative by the WHO to combat tobacco use that was signed by 168 countries in 2003; 120 of these countries have since ratified it.
The agreement promotes smoke-free public spaces, limits advertising for tobacco companies, advocates placing information about the harms of smoking inside packs of cigarettes and raising taxes on tobacco.
In Costa Rica, there are more than 750,000 smokers. Each year about 3,300 people die from diseases caused by the consumption of tobacco, according to the Institute of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (IAFA).
Statistics from the Pan-American Health Organization indicate that half of all Costa Ricans younger than 15 have tried tobacco and 20% are habitual smokers.