In 2007, the Mexican Congress passed a law that places strict limits on smoking in public places. For the smoker long banished to the great outdoors, the bill came as no surprise: for years, Mexico’s rules on smoking have been somewhat lax compared with other countries, and no-smoking signs are frequently ignored.
The new law bans smoking in restaurants, bars and other places, except in special areas that are completely sealed-off from non-smoking areas. It establishes a more stringent ban on advertising, and requires bigger and more visible health warnings on cigarette packs – all standard stuff these days.
Then there are a number of questionable items that leave the non-smoker wondering and gives the smoker the urge to slip out for a cigarette. Raising fines for giving or selling a cigarette to a minor “from four to 10,000 daily minimum wages” is somewhat reminiscent of the drunk who, having fallen off the left side of his horse, corrects the previous error and falls off the right side.
The law states that cigarettes must be sold in packages of at least 14 and at the most 25, which just happens to coincide with the packs currently available on the market. The point to that is perhaps to back up the ban on selling loose cigarettes (that followed soon after the smoking ban law came into effect), which in turn is probably designed to discourage smoking among the young.
The sale of single cigarettes, on street stalls and by vendors from cardboard trays at traffic lights, is quite common. Such purveyors of tobacco make more than 100% profit on a pack of 20. When packs of 20 used to cost $10 pesos, individual cigarettes were sold at 1 peso. When the pack went up to $12 pesos, single cigarettes went up to $1.50.
With a pack of Class-A cigarettes now retailing at $47 pesos, loose cigarettes can be had for $4 pesos, $4.50 or even $5 pesos, depending on the competition, i.e., how many competing stalls or ambulant vendors happen to be nearby.
The new law has not really affected these stalwarts of the free market trade — you can still buy single cigarettes with ease from street stalls and ambulant vendors all over Mexico.
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