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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 09:37 GMT
Uruguay curbs smoking in public
Thousands of Uruguayans die every year from smoking-related diseases
Uruguay has become the first country in South America to ban smoking in enclosed public places.

The ban came into effect at midnight local time (0300 GMT).

Now bars, restaurants or offices where people are caught smoking will face fines of more than $1,100 (630) or a three-day closure.

The ban was decreed by President Tabare Vazquez, who is a cancer specialist. Cuba adopted a similar ban in February last year.

Smokers' support

Mr Vazquez said the law would prevent unnecessary deaths from passive smoking.

An estimated 5,000 people die every year in Uruguay from smoking-related diseases, according to official figures.

President Vazquez said: "Passive smoking is also linked to chronic disease and premature deaths. Since there's not a secure level of exposition, the best thing to do is to ban cigarettes in enclosed places."

To promote the legislation, the government has launched a campaign called A Million Thanks, a reference to the number of Uruguayan smokers who will have to change their habits.

An opinion poll commissioned by the health ministry shows that 70% of the smokers support the ban.

Cuba's smoking ban takes effect
07 Feb 05 |  Americas
Smoking curbs: The global picture
26 Oct 05 |  In Depth
Country profile: Uruguay
23 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Uruguay
09 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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