Objective: To describe the process of approval and implementation of a comprehensive smokefree law in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, between 2005 and 2009.
Methods: Review of the Santa Fe smokefree legislation, articles published in local newspapers and documentation on two lawsuits filed against the law and interviews with key individuals in Santa Fe.
Results: Efforts to implement smokefree policies in Santa Fe began during the 1990s without success, and resumed in 2005 when the provincial Legislature approved the first 100% smokefree sub-national law in Argentina. There was no strong opposition during the discussions within the legislature. As in other parts of the world, pro-tobacco industry interests attempted to block the implementation of the law using well-known strategies. These efforts included a controversy media campaign set up, the creation of a hospitality industry’s association and a virtual smokers’ rights group, the introduction of a counter-proposal seeking the modification of the law, the challenge of the law in the Supreme Court, and a proposal of a weak national bill that would “conflict” with the sub-national law. Tobacco control advocates brought media attention as a strategy to protect the law.
Conclusions: Santa Fe is the first sub-national jurisdiction in Latin America to have enacted a comprehensive smokefree policy following the recommendations of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. After 3 years of implementation, pro-tobacco industry forces failed to undermine the law. Other sub-national jurisdictions in Argentina, as well as in Mexico and Brazil are following the Santa Fe example.
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