BOGOTA, June 1 (Xinhua) -- A ban on smoking in all public places went into effect on Sunday in Colombia, announced the Colombian government.
The ban applies to all public places, such as public transport vehicles, hospitals, kindergartens and schools, said the Ministry of Social Security and Health, which issued the ban on May 31, the21st World No Tobacco Day.
The ban also extends non-smoking area to bars, clubs, restaurants, business centers and airports, said the ministry.
Under the ban, "smoking areas" will no longer be seen in enclosed public places and all cigarettes sold within the country should carry the warning "smoking is harmful to your health" on their packages. Fines, business suspension or more severe punishment will be meted out to all violators of the decree.
The ban is aimed to further the interest of the public, improve public sanitation, and protect the health of non-smokers and the younger generations, said Carlos Ignacio Cuervo, deputy minister of social security and health.
At least 68 people on average died per day from smoking-related-diseases in Colombia, according to the latest report of the ministry.
The report said that passive smokers are even more prone to lung cancer and cardio-vascular problems compared to those who stay away from cigarettes.
Among the over 5 million smokers in Colombia, nearly 30 percent are teenagers aged between 12 to 18. The number of young smokers in the country is on the rise.
The Colombian government is now considering stricter anti-smoking measures, such as banning tobacco advertisements and levying heavier taxes on tobacco products.