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In conjunction with World No Tobacco Day (31 May), Chile's Ministry of Health announced the expansion of its smoke-free policy for health care facilities. A smoking ban for hospitals and health care facilities went into effect in March 2013, but designated open areas were not covered. Under the new policy, these facilities will become 100% smoke-free.

The announcement was made at an event hosted by Undersecretary of Health Jaime Burrows on Friday, 30 May, at Instituto Pedro Aguirre Cerda, a national public hospital in the capital city, Santiago. This facility has already embraced the 100% smoke-free policy, as other facilities are being urged to do.

As a long-time partner in Chile's tobacco control efforts, The Union was represented at the event, with José Luis Castro, Executive Director, one of the invited speakers. In his speech, he praised the new policy, saying: "The smoke-free law enacted last year is now improving the health of seventeen million Chileans. Millions of children, the elderly and the sick are being protected from the health damages of second-hand smoke. Since 2009, The Union has been pleased and proud to accompany you on this journey towards improved public health".

The Union also used this occasion to launch the 2nd edition of 'Assessing Compliance with Smoke-Free Laws', a guide that supports the implementation of smoke-free legislation, such as the new policy.

"This how-to guide can help you as you undertake the important task of measuring compliance in Chile," said Mr Castro. "A good compliance study can help you highlight the potential need for improved implementation and enforcement of your law."

The new policy is part of a campaign to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and help halt the tobacco epidemic in Chile. Chile has the highest rate of smoking in Latin America. Over 40% of adults and 50% of young adults aged 15 to 21 are smokers.

Following the event, Mr Castro also met with Dr Helia Molina Milman, Minister of Health to discuss ongoing public health and tobacco control issues.

Raising taxes to tobacco products, support to the current initiatives to amend the tobacco control legislation, and the need to have more studies of the tobacco epidemic were discussed. The Ministry of Health is supporting an initiative in the Senate to address three important areas: ban of display of tobacco products in points of sale, increase in the size of health warnings to obtain a similar policy to plain packaging and the change in the authority to impose sanctions for violations of the law.

 

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