Colombia combats tobacco epidemic

29 Jul 2009

The Colombian government has signed tobacco control legislation to protect its citizens from tobacco use, making the country a regional leader in fighting the tobacco epidemic.

The legislation strengthens Colombia’s existing tobacco control regulations by:

  • requiring all indoor work places and public places be immediately smoke-free;
  • prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship, and the use of terms such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on packaging;
  • requiring large, pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging (covering 30 per cent of the front and back) within a year; 
  • preventing the sale of tobacco products to minors; and
  • mandating public education programs on the deadly effects of tobacco use.

Leading international tobacco control advocate and former American Cancer Society president Dr Elmer Huerta said the Colombian government had recognized the importance of protecting its citizen’s health by aggressively reducing tobacco use.

“This legislation is a wonderful example of how civil society, organizations and government can overcome opposition from the tobacco industry,” he said.

Despite heavy-handed opposition from tobacco companies, Colombia passed the legislation just 15 months after ratifying the world’s first modern-day health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

At 46 million people, Colombia is one of the largest countries in Latin America to enact a comprehensive tobacco control law. About 25,000 people in Colombia die each year due to tobacco-related illness. 

President of the US based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew Myers said that Colombia will provide strong leadership in Latin America and help save the lives of thousands of its citizens by implementing these proven measures to reduce tobacco use.


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