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At exactly 12:01 AM on 7 August, Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo, became smoke-free. The law went into effect without any problems and compliance was high in the first few hours, with only isolated reports of non-compliance—just 11 fines out of 887 establishments inspected. The law requires all workplaces, including bars, restaurants and night clubs, to be 100 per cent smoke-free, going beyond existing federal legislation dating from 1996. In addition, it applies to common areas of apartment buildings. The only exception is for religious cults in which tobacco might be an essential part of the rituals.

The system of fines is progressive and leaves no doubt that the law means business. Initial fines are between R$792.50 to R$1,585.00 (approximately US$435 to US$870), depending on the size of the establishment, for a first offence, which includes the presence of ashtrays. The fine is doubled for a second offence. After a third offence, the establishment has to close for 48 hours; and after a fourth, it must close down for 30 days.

All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to:

The law was drafted by the state’s Governor, José Serra, the former federal health minister responsible for Brazil's pictorial health warnings and advertising restrictions. The parliamentary debate in the State Assembly was like a parody of tobacco industry tactics, with hospitality associations with known links to tobacco companies claiming that the proposed legislation was unconstitutional, that economic disaster would ensue, and that the rights of smokers would be violated, among other well-known industry arguments. Advocacy groups, particularly Alianca de Controle do Tabagismo (ACT), together with public health professionals, mounted a well organised educational and media campaign to defeat the industry’s arguments. The assembly approved the legislation in April …

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