Costa Rican lawmakers this week approved a project that will ban the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in public. The legislation will also impose a tax on such devices, with the proceeds supporting the Social Security Fund (CCSS).
In that context, we’re revisiting Costa Rica’s major anti-smoking law that passed in 2012.
Precursors to the law
Costa Rica adopted the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on November 19, 2008.
The FCTC, which has existed since 2005, has the following provisions meant to address addictive substances and improve population health:
- Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke;
- Regulation of the contents of tobacco products;
- Regulation of tobacco product disclosures;
- Packaging and labelling of tobacco products;
- Education, communication, training and public awareness;
- Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and,
- Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation.
As of 2012, when Costa Rica passed legislation related to the FCTC, about 14.2% of Costa Ricans smoked, most between ages 20 and 39, according to the CCSS.
Costa Rica anti-smoking law passes
In February 2012, the Legislative Assembly adopted a new tobacco-control act that replaced the prior legislation. The law had the following provisions:
- A complete ban on smoking in all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars;
- Increasing the size of health warnings so that they occupy 50% of principal display areas of packages;
- Including pictures and pictograms in health warnings;
- Banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
- Banning the sale of tobacco products to and by minors;
- Banning sales of cigarettes in packages of less than 20 pieces and through vending machines; and
- Calling for educational and research programs.
In the weeks following the new law, cigarette prices in Costa Rica increased by 49%. In 2013, tobacco tax revenue increased by 96%, according to the World Bank, but it then dropped in following years as cigarette demand decreased.
In addition, the World Bank notes:
- The prevalence of smoking in Costa Rica declined. In 2015, only 5.8% of the adult population smoked daily.
- In 2018, cigarette production in the country was closed.
- Costa Rica joined a group of most successful countries in meeting the WHO’s tobacco-control goals.
The latest data indicate 11.1% of Costa Ricans over the age of 20 used tobacco products in 2018.
Similar approach to vaping
Project 21.658 was approved in a second debate this week by the Legislative Assembly with 33 votes in favor and seven against. The bill must still be signed into law and published in La Gaceta before it takes effect.
In addition to banning vaping and e-cigarette use in most public spaces, the bill also creates a tax on vaping devices and accessories. Businesses will also be obligated to add no-vaping advisories to their existing no-smoking signs.
The Health Ministry has endorsed this law, arguing that vaping devices are increasing nicotine dependence.
“I think this project is extremely important for the country. It has the full support of the Ministry of Health,” said Health Minister Daniel Salas. “It is completely in line with the health alert we already issued regarding the use of vaping devices, where we have even been very clear that there is no study that can show e-cigarettes are a smoking cessation therapy.”