Mexican Congress Approves Measure to Restrict Smoking (Update1)

Mexico's Senate approved a law that requires restaurants and bars to set up non-smoking areas and limits advertising by tobacco companies.

Mexico's Senate approved a law that requires restaurants and bars to set up non-smoking areas and limits advertising by tobacco companies. Under the measure, businesses must get a license to sell tobacco and all enclosed public places have 180 days to create non-smoking sections. The law also prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring sporting events and will only allow ads in areas where children aren't present, such as bars. The bill, endorsed by President Felipe Calderon, aims to eliminate youth smoking and Reduce the potential harm of second-hand smoke. About 60,000 Mexicans die every year from diseases associated with smoking, said Ernesto Saro, president of the Senate's Health Committee. ``We don't want it to affect the children, the teenagers,'' said Saro, a member of Calderon's National Action Party. The bill's general outline was approved by 101 votes for to 5 votes against today, though lawmakers may make changes. The lower house of congress had already passed the measure. The law aims to Reduce smoking among minors by increasing fines for selling Cigarettes to people under 18 years of age. Seven million of Mexico's 13 million active smokers began smoking before the age of 14, Saro said. Machines that dispense Cigarettes will be banned. The law will also require tobacco companies to reveal their advertising spending to the government. Mexico City passed a similar law in December requiring non-smoking areas in businesses. Tobacco Companies Senator Maria Elena Orantes of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which favoRed the bill, urged lawmakers to prevent the law from affecting private investment in Mexico. ``We sincerely hope that by supporting a fundamental premise such as the health of smokers, we have not set a negative precedent that could affect other sectors or products or companies,'' Orantes said. Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboros and a unit of Altria Group Inc., is the country's biggest cigarette seller. Gregory Prager, a spokesman, referRed questions to the company's New York office, which didn't respond. A call to the media relations department at Grupo Carso SA, which has a stake in Philip Morris's business in Mexico, wasn't returned. British American Tobacco Plc's Mexico-based manager of institutional relations, Karla Maria Gonzalez, declined to comment. The company makes Lucky Strike Cigarettes. Ney Gonzalez Sanchez, governor of Nayarit state, has vowed not to implement the law, saying it would take jobs away from some 16,000 families that grow tobacco in the state, the governor's office confirmed today. Nayarit is the largest producer of tobacco in Mexico. Senator Antonio Mejia, whose opposition Party of Democratic Revolution supported the bill, urged the government to provide loans, technical assistance and infrastructure for tobacco growers in Nayarit who may lose work. By Adriana Lopez Caraveo and Jens Erik Gould

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