The Line in the Sand: No Smoking at Mexican Outdoor Restaurants


The Line in the Sand: No Smoking at Mexican Outdoor Restaurants

By Tara A. Spears

In recent years, the anti-tobacco law has become tougher in many countries, including Mexico,  whose governments have been implementing regulations and changes aimed at combating tobacco consumption. The prohibition in public spaces and in certain private places is only one of the measures implemented by the Mexican government to combat the effects of tobacco, facilitate coexistence between smokers and non-smokers and avoid the increase of passive smokers.

But while for most smokers the anti-smoking law is unfair and excessive, for the majority of non-smokers it is insufficient. This is the line drawn in the sand: whose personal freedom matters more?

Specifically, Mexico has the intention of protecting passive smokers, therefore it prohibits smoking in public areas, workplaces inside a building, public and private schools of both basic and upper secondary education, in enclosed sports venues and public transport among others, given that all these spaces are considered 100% smoke-free.

The Mexican anti-smoking law went into effect July, 2009 but in our rural small town enforcement is slow to catch up.  The Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks  (COFEPRIS) within the Ministry of Health said in a statement that smoking is prohibited in public spaces: public buildings (federal, state and municipal), restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The Ministry of Health reiterated “ that smoking areas must be outdoors and completely isolated from spaces that are one hundred percent free of cigarette smoke.”  To back up the importance of the law, a schedule of economic sanctions that entailed serious penalties was defined. The Ministry set up a free, anonymous hot line to report noncompliance of Mexican businesses:  800 000 0232.

It should be noted that the Department of health defines a business establishment as “closed space if it has a roof and two walls…” which encompasses many beach palapas. It’s sad to see smokers snarl at the restaurant/ bar owners when told to stop smoking; it is the business owner that will have to pay the fine of thousands of pesos.

Another layer of anti-smoking law relates to the environment. It is shocking how many butts (cigarette ends) one chain smoker can accumulate in an hour; multiply that by dozens of addicts and you realize how harmful this pollution is for humans, animals, and the earth.  Many beach visitors simply bury their butts in the sand but since the level of the sand if fluid, the poor ocean life is going to get OD’d on nicotine and menthol after rain or tide changes.  It seems very irresponsible to not consider the discarded ends and empty packages as littering. The least a smoker can do is bring a container to put the butts in and then to put the container in a trash receptacle. It seems such an easy thing to do

Recently a group of young people concerned about the cleanliness of the beaches and the welfare of sea ​​turtles launched an attractive initiative for visitors to the beaches of Túxpan, Veracruz. It’s an excellent idea to benefit humans, environment, and animals alike.

The Campamento Tortuguero Barra Norte announced through its social networks that it would give a half-liter michelada to all those who showed up at the facilities of the Mar de Plata beach club with a glass full of cigar butts collected from the beach. Perhaps some of the beach business might consider this campaign for Jaltemba Bay.

Regardless of your personal philosophy concerning smoking, caring about the quality of the ocean and health of the environment needs to be respected.  And it is the law.