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Polluted Mexico City Bans Smoking

By Anahi Rama – Reuters – Thu Apr 3, 2008 8:21pm EDT

MEXICO CITY, April 3 (Reuters) – Mexico City on Thursday banned cigarette smoking in all public places, from bars to office buildings, to reduce the amount of carcinogens inhaled by residents of the smog-filled capital.

The city, home to some 18 million people in the metropolitan area, is the latest large city around the world to pass a smoking ban to improve public health and protect nonsmokers from secondary smoke.

But not all Mexicans are happy about the prospect of smoke-free cantinas where tequila and cigarettes are traditionally enjoyed hand-in-hand.

“Right now I’m fine, but later tonight — after a couple of drinks — I’m going to really want one,” said 26-year-old Rodrigo Nunez, a smoker and government office worker playing a game of pool in a bar in the fashionable Condesa neighborhood on his lunch break.

The law to ban smoking in all enclosed areas, from sidewalk cafes to public transportation to elevators and schools, was passed by the city assembly in November.

Smokers who violate the ban can be fined between $50 and $300, with higher penalties for bar and restaurant owners who allow smoking.

The fines will not be applied until next week, giving restaurant and bar owners time to post large no-smoking signs to let people know about the change.

Major U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles as well as countries across Europe have enforced similar bans. The Dutch government is even planning a cigarette smoking ban in Amsterdam that would apply to coffee shops where patrons can legally smoke marijuana.

But in Mexico, where businessmen still often smoke in meetings and most restaurants lack nonsmoking sections, the habit will be hard to break.

“The young people will accept it because they will realize that it’s a step forward … it’s the old people who will be upset,” resident Jose Manuel Ogando said.

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