Smoking-ban bill approved in Mexico

From the Associated Press

Mexico's Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would ban smoking in workplaces, public buildings and public transportation across the country, and allow it in private businesses only if special, ventilated smoking areas are set up.

The bill, approved 101-5 with two abstentions, had already passed the lower house of Congress, and only awaits enactment by the president.

Current federal laws allow people to smoke only in select areas of certain businesses, but don't require them to be separated by a physical barrier and ventilation. Businesses have 180 days after the law's enactment to create enclosed smoking areas.

The new law would also ban a common practice in Mexico in which street vendors sell individual cigarettes, instead allowing only the sale of full packs. Businesses could face fines of up to $40,000 or closure if they fail to comply with the federal measures.

The new law sets a minimum standard of protection for nonsmokers nationwide, leaving state and local legislatures free to pass even tougher limits, as Mexico City did Tuesday.

The city had enacted a law in January allowing smoking areas in just 30% of bars and restaurants. It modified the measure Tuesday to eliminate even such special smoking areas. Mexico City's law will take effect one month after it is published by the city's mayor.

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