Puerto Rico Passes Law to Ban Smoking

Associated Press Writer

Aida Sanchez squints through the smoke of her fellow gamblers’ cigars and cigarettes.

Alone in the small nonsmoking section of a seaside casino, the retired Puerto Rican hair stylist, 60, puts up with acrid second-hand smoke to spend time in the casinos of this U.S. island territory.

“Where else am I going to go?” Sanchez says above the din of clinking coins and beeps.

Relief may be on the way for people like Sanchez; lawmakers on Thursday passed what would be the toughest anti-smoking law in the Caribbean. The governor says he will sign the restrictions, which ban smoking in bars, restaurants, other public buildings and even in cars carrying passengers younger than 13.

Violators of the law, set to take effect next year, would face a $250 fine for a first offense.


The law would set Puerto Rico apart from its Caribbean and Latin American neighbors.

Though common in the United States, smoking restrictions are relatively rare and mild farther south.

In some parts of Mexico, restaurants must have a nonsmoking section, and Cuba last year restricted smoking -- even cigars -- in most public places. Jamaica and Bermuda are considering imposing limits.