The vice president of the National Assembly is proposing a bill that would ban smokers from lighting up in indoor public areas, workplaces and any other enclosed place where the public gathers, including private property.
“We’re talking about restaurants, bars, dance clubs, movie theaters, buses, brothels,” said Luis Callejas, the doctor and Liberal Constitutional Party legislator who was to propose the bill in the National Assembly this week.
The proposal comes a week after Callejas and other legislators made a call to enforce an existing law that bans smoking in public buildings, such as schools and hospitals. Approved by the National Assembly 22 years ago, the law is still largely ignored.
“Unfortunately, the Health Ministry has so many obligations, problems and budget deficiencies that making people stop smoking is the least of its concerns,” said Callejas, himself a former Health Ministry delegate in the northern city of Chinandega.
Callejas’ bill also bans smoking within 100 meters of any public places, requires that businesses put up no-smoking signs, restricts where and how tobacco can be sold and calls on police to crack down on smokers.
According to anti-smoking lobbyist Laura Salgado, Callejas’ bill would help bring Nicaragua into compliance with an international agreement to reduce tobacco consumption, which the National Assembly ratified in April.
“People who live around smokers suffer and die in the same ways as smokers,” Salgado said at an anti-smoking conference at the Metrocentro InterContinental hotel in Managua on June 5.
Healthy Ministry official Edmundo Sánchez said 28 percent of Nicaraguan households have reported that some member of the household smokes.
“This is a public health issue,” said Callejas, also a member of the assembly’s health commission. “The (existing law) hasn’t been enforced and the same will happen with this law if civil society doesn’t demand that it be enforced.”