The two-year-old state law banning the smoking of tobacco in Baja’s bars, bistros, and restaurants — “Ley Antitabaco” — is being ignored by the patrons who puff. In fact, the absence of enforcement is visible through the pale purple-gray clouds that hover in the air in most drinking establishments.
Most bars started off strongly with the removal of ashtrays and posted signs that declared no fumar. Unobliging patrons were 86’ed into the streets if they dared to light up. The initial stern stance, however, has slackened since the law’s inauguration. Rebellious smokers lit up, and the statute became generally ignored by acquiescent bar-owners.
So far, owners of such renegade establishments have received mainly warnings to clamp down on puffers, with only admonitions being issued by the cigarette police.
Since the ban on butts, 273 establishments in Mexicali, 214 in Ensenada, and 87 in TJ have received such warnings, but further action can include fines, suspensions, and even closures. Three suspensions in Mexicali and one in Tijuana have thus far occurred.
Ricardo Zamarrón Guevara, director of Protección Contra Riesgos Sanitarios, says that the smoke cops are reluctant to crack down on the bars because of the economic downturn that has ravaged Tijuana, so they are inviting owners to once again comply voluntarily with the law.