The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Civil society and a smoke-free Buenos Aires

Opinion article by Veronica Schoj

Late last year the City Council of Buenos Aires, Argentina, announced that every indoor work and public place would be smoke-free within a year. This is a great achievement and one that civil society played a crucial role in helping bring about.

This new smoke-free law will make a significant contribution to protecting people’s health by creating safer work environments and eliminating designated smoking areas (DSAs), which were contemplated in the previous law.

Every indoor work and public place will be completely smoke-free. All indoor DSAs will be removed from bars, restaurants, betting establishments and dance clubs.

This will also end the suffering of workers subject to unsafe working conditions due to breathing tobacco smoke. It will also provide a fresh impulse to the modification of the partial restriction legislation in force in the province of Buenos Aires, and the treatment of a national tobacco control law bill in the National Chamber of Representatives, which the Senate has already passed.

Civil society’s crucial role

Civil society’s role in creating this law was critical. Since the enactment of a partial restriction law for the City of Buenos Aires in 2005, NGOs worked hard to modify the law.

Since 2007 the Argentina Smokefree Alliance (ALIAR) – a coalition of more than 100 NGOs working together to promote 100 per cent smoke-free legislation – has promoted the law’s modification to make it 100 per cent smoke-free.
 
ALIAR undertook different but complementary strategies. The distribution in national and local media of local, solid scientific evidence to support 100 per cent smoke-free environments was one of the organisation’s main strategies.

For example, ALIAR conducted a study to evaluate the impact of a 100 per cent smoke-free environment law on the health of hospitality industry workers in the city of Neuquén.

Public opinion supportive

This was a fundamental resource to promote the enactment of similar legislation in Buenos Aires. An opinion poll also strengthened the claim, which demonstrated the low level of compliance of the Buenos Aires partial restriction law in comparison with the high level of compliance of 100 per cent smoke-free legislation that was in force in other provinces.
 
The results showed also that 94 percent of Buenos Aires’ population supported 100 per cent smoke-free legislation.

ALIAR also developed an indoor air quality monitoring protocol to show that smoking areas were ineffective in protecting non-smokers’ health and hospitality industry workers.

Other critical work involved ALIAR’s alliance with workers’ unions in hospitality sectors. 

Now that Buenos Aires City (the largest and most influential district in Argentina) will be smoke-free within in year, there is a good chance the rest of the country will follow.

This opinion piece is by Veronica Schoj - ALIAR national coordinator

 

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