The President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, has approved Decree Number 4624, which officially bans the use of both traditional tobacco products, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and all electronic delivery systems (ENDS) in both enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor areas. The decree, signed on 29 December, means that all South American countries will now have smokefree environments—in indoor public spaces and workplaces. This policy is in compliance with and mandated by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global evidence-based treaty designed to protect the global population from the dangers of tobacco.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and its consumption is a serious issue in Paraguay: approximately 17 percent of the adult population smokes, and 3,000 Paraguayans die each year from tobacco related diseases. As has been well documented in peer reviewed scientific literature, smoking also exacerbates COVID-19; smokers are more likely to experience extreme disease outcomes, including the need for mechanical ventilation, intubation or death. As the disease spreads through Paraguay—there were over 116,000 cases on 11 January—there is even greater need to curtail smoking and implement measures that will improve lung health.
“This is a great moment not only for the health of Paraguayans, but for the entire region of South America,” said Adriana Blanco, head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “Paraguay’s decree creates a sub-region of the Americas that is totally free of tobacco smoke.”
The Union facilitated the decree through monetary support and technical advice to Paraguay NGO Enfoque Territorial. By creating the country’s first tobacco control civil society network, the Paraguay NGO leveraged other NGOs, prominent individuals, and universities, to make a strong case for smokefree environments.
“We are enormously impressed by Enfoque Territorial’s work,” said Gustavo Sóñora, Regional Director of Latin America at The Union. “Paraguay has long been an unfortunate anomaly in South America. In the absence of smokefree environments, nearly seven million people were subject to secondhand smoke that contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including 70 that cause cancer. This is truly a landmark decree and our sub-grantee has secured itself on the right side of public health history.”
Under Decree 4624, smoking lit, heated or electronic tobacco products in public spaces is severely limited—it is only permissible in uncrowded, open air spaces that are not heavily trafficked. Smoking any product is prohibited in places that serve as transit areas for non-smokers. Because it creates major smoke-free areas, this critical legislation de-normalises smoking and serves three complimentary goals: it protects people from harmful tobacco smoke, encourages smokers to stop smoking, and discourages tobacco consumption, particularly among impressionable youth.
“[Paraguay] has taken an enormous step toward protecting its citizens from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “This is a great achievement.”