Healthcare, Markets and Trade

Smoke-Free Mexico Offers No Substitutes for Quitters

Ex-smokers and those trying to quit smoking can't find tobacco substitutes for sale in Mexico

Smoke Free Sign in Mexico

In modern, free-trading Mexico, the number of products that are impossible to find has shrunk considerably over the years. Size 15 shoes and XXL shirts and underwear are still a problem. Tobacco substitutes are a newcomer to the list.

It’s been a decade since Mexico passed a new law to crack down on the use of tobacco, securing smoke-free public spaces and buildings everywhere, and generating widespread awareness among smokers of the rights of non-smokers to be free from the toxic clouds exhaled by the users of the stuff when shopping, eating out, or waiting for a bus.

What it hasn’t achieved is to cut down on the number of smokers in the country, according to some reports.

Whether that’s because not enough has been done to discourage smoking, or because people who smoke don’t really care to quit, is anybody’s guess. One thing for certain is that the props to help those who do want to give up—nicotine patches, nicotine gum, lozenges, etc.— have disappeared from drugstores across the country, and electronic cigarettes are only available on the black market. E-cigs are supposedly banned in Mexico under the tobacco law, but only by stretching an interpretation of the clause under which chocolate cigarettes were made to vanish from candy stores.

The ban on the — highly profitable, by the way — sale of loose cigarettes has been widely ignored. These are still openly available on thousands of street stalls, at markets, outside Metro stations, at traffic lights. In some districts where health inspectors have shown up to admonish vendors in breach of the ban, the sale stopped for a while and then resumed surreptitiously among trusted customers. But if the prohibition was aimed at keeping cigarettes out of the hands of minors, it could be said to have worked. At least you’d be hard pressed to find vendors selling tobacco to the under-aged, and this is true of local shops as well.

Anyway, if you habitually consume nicotine products other than cigarettes, you will do well to bring a supply to tide you over during your visit to Mexico; or if you live here, stock-up on your next shopping trip abroad.

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