Navigating Mexico: Wanna Smoke? Stay Home!
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
A new law went into effect in Mexico on Sunday, Jan. 15, that has not been in the news much, although we did cover it in Pulse News Mexico.
First, a quick law class on law progressivity.
The Mexican Constitution allows municipalities to create and enforce laws, as well as states, and at the highest level, we have federal laws about federal highways, guns, drugs, organized crime and the like.
Then, there is one level that is even higher, a “general law,” that supersedes laws at all other levels and is applicable in all parts of Mexico.
Mexico’s new smoking regulation falls into this category.
Until now, smoking has been mostly controlled with each state’s laws and some larger cities, which could have had environmental laws that addressed smoking. For example, most states allowed restaurants to have a smoking area if they built a 100 percent self-contained zone and no patron had to walk through it to access another part of the business. But the waiters had to serve in these sections.
But now all this has changed.
With the enactment of General Law Article 65, which has to do with the control of tobacco, cigarettes or other forms of tobacco can no longer be consumed in restaurants or bars, and establishments may no longer have smoking areas.
The law seems to allow a small provision for hotels and the like to have a dedicated and self-contained smoking area, but it must be open air. This is expressly not permitted for restaurants or bars, since servers would have to enter them.
On beaches and in parks, people are no longer able to smoke cigarettes either.
The new ruling likewise targets specific places such as stadiums, basketball courts, entertainment complexes, churches, bus stops, pretty much anywhere in public.
The language of the law is somewhat vague as it says “any place where there is a collective gathering.”
Could that be interpreted as a busy sidewalk?
Signage must be visual everywhere specifying the new law.
All public spaces are to be 100 percent smoke-free zones. And this includes a perimeter of 10 meters from the actual entrance of a building or consumer establishment.
The law’s intention seems clear: If you choose to smoke, do so inside your private home or vehicle and not in a public space. Even delivery trucks are off-limits, as they are extensions of a business.
By the way, smoking cannot be done in any place where there are minors, so the question of a private car could become tricky if children are inside.
The consequences for violating the new health code are very high for businesses and other establishments, with a potential loss of an operating license as well as a 10,000-peso fine or 36-hour arrest for an individual who smokes in a public space.
Mexico has excellent laws; impartial and non-selective enforcement is another story.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out as personal habits are often generational for a lasting change to internalize.