Smokers Put Out in Mexico City

By Lola

One of Mexico City’s main papers, El Universal, reports the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District (Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal or ALDF) just approved a groundbreaking reform that will force restaurants, cafeterias, offices, theaters and other entertainment venues to physically separate smokers from non-smokers. Physically, as in, with a concrete or glass wall. Should this prove to be impossible because of the architectural structure, smoking will thereby be prohibited in said venue.

Can you imagine the uproar? Smoking in Mexico is as Mexican as tacos–smokers outnumber non-smokers in appaling droves. Appaling to some, but to others, it’s just culture, a way of life, the way it’s been. I’m not condoning smoking, but neither am I condemning it. Which I’m sure is going to raise somebody’s hackles out there and accuse me of all kinds of things.

I do applaud the segregation of smokers, mind you. Nobody should have to enjoy their plate of carnitas with a cigarette if they don’t want to. I personally don’t smoke while I’m eating, but do enjoy the occasional drag when I’m having my tequila. (OK, bring on the outrage.)

I’m just reporting this move by the government is going to cause an uproar, since many (and I’m not saying ALL, darn it) Mexicans enjoy their smokes.

In fact, according to the article, restaurant owners are already asking for a review of the law throug their reps at CANIRAC, the National Chamber for the Food and Restaurant Industry. They consider it an “improvised” and “badly thought” move.

While the ALDF prez, Marco Antonio Garcia Ayala, did concede that some restaurants already have separate areas for smokers and non-smokers, he says it’s a pretty moot arrangment since the smoke drifts over the entire place anyway. True, we’ve all been there. And I don’t particularly care for my 8-year-old daughter to be inhaling along with her carnitas, either. So I agree with the restaurant deal. And the theater deal. And pretty much everything else, except I hope they’re not including nightclubs and bars. Why? Because. (I can hear the outrage from the peanut gallery.) Just call it a cultural thing. And, yes, mind you, I know it causes cancer. And even if I don’t smoke, which half the time I don’t do, I don’t mind that the people around me do. If I don’t like it that much, I can leave and find myself a non-smoking bar/nightclub/dancefloor, whatever. I’m not sure, by the way, that a place that pristine would go over that well in Mexico City, but I could be wrong.

Smokers have rights, too, is all I’m saying. (Don’t yell, my hearing is just fine.)

Anyway, the whole thing won’t be set into motion quite yet. These things take time. About two months if everything goes smoothly. Which I’m thinking “no”, but well, weirder things have happened.

Fines will be quite stiff, by the way, lest you think the chainsmoking legislature was only kidding. Owners who violate the law will have to pay a fine that ranges anywhere from 100 to 500 times the minimum wage, and they face up to 36 hours of jail time. In a Mexican jail. Shudder, shudder… Their businesses could also be closed down.

Should a client disobey the law, the owner of the locale can call police and have him (or her) thrown before a judge. Yikes.

The reform also precludes tobacco companies from advertising their products or brands at any event, including sports, cultural and social occasions, or any activities related to the same.

This should be interesting. (Simmonds, I can hear you applauding.)