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Cancun Hospitality Wins Fight For Travelers To Smoke In Designated Areas

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A group of tenacious restaurants in Cancun has won back the freedom to have designated smoking areas on their premises.

Cancun Hospitality Wins Fight For Travelers To Smoke In Designated Areas

So far, 15 restaurants, mostly located in the hotel zone, have been granted more relaxed rules.

Meanwhile, a representative of restaurants in Cancun stated that there are more establishments with similar requests waiting for their court date to bring the same challenge against the public area smoking ban.

What The Restaurants Have Fought Against

Back on January 15th, 2023, Mexico introduced its new anti-smoking legislation that surprised the world due to its extreme nature.

The legislation meant that smoking in all public places became an illegal act. This includes beaches, parks, bars, and even sidewalks.

Carlos and Charlies restaurant front Cancun

Hefty fines were expected to be waiting for anyone who ignored the new law, although up until now, no restaurant in Cancun has received a fine from the health authorities, despite regular reports of the new smoking restrictions being ignored.

While the new law had plenty of supporters, many Mexicans, as well as regular foreign visitors, were upset at the change.

Cancun has long been seen as a haven for Americans from the often strict social attitudes to smoking back home. The destination has traditionally had a more ‘you do you’ response to smokers.

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Coco Bongos advertisement sign on Cancun high street

The Ruling

While this small group of tourist industry-focused restaurants has won an important battle in their eyes, the court ruling in their favor doesn’t throw the new anti-smoking legislation out.

The 15 restaurants named in the legal documents now have the legal right to provide designated smoking areas for customers.

Furthermore, these establishments are not allowed to serve food and alcohol in these sections, meaning they will likely resemble the often-crowded smoking areas found in airports around the world.

Puerto Morelos Beachfront Restaurant with People Sitting at the Bar

As well as the restrictions on food and alcohol service, the new smoking areas must be outside on terraces, patios, or any other outdoor area belonging to the restaurant, and also be a minimum of 10 meters from the non-smoking areas.

Unfortunately, this means any business that doesn’t have a suitable outdoor area won’t be able to provide this extra slice of freedom to their visitors as the sidewalk remains a smoke-free zone.

Cancun restaurants

The Restaurants Aren’t Alone

It isn’t just the restaurants of Cancun that are fighting the government’s anti-smoking crusade. Many large hotels, convenience stores, and local shops in the city have filed their own resolutions.

While many of these businesses don’t directly benefit from tourists being able to smoke on their premises, the general feeling is the new law takes away from Cancun’s appeal to foreigners.

This show of solidarity by the businesses of Cancun in response to situations that impact tourists isn’t new. On everything from crime to sargassum, they often join together to force change and action to protect the tourism industry.

A cleaner at a Cancun beach dealing with sargassum

What Does It Change?

A quick look at the criteria that need to be filled to have a smoking area and it becomes obvious this new development won’t change much.

The stipulation to have smoking areas 10 meters from non-smoking areas alone rules out the vast majority of establishments.

But it should be understood that this isn’t just about being allowed to have smoking areas. This is the opening chess move by Cancun businesses in their fight against what many in Mexico believe is a step too far by the government.

For now, this concession has only been granted to 15 restaurants, but with many more cases waiting in the wings to be brought forward, business leaders are hoping to create a snowball effect.

And with each new ruling in favor of the restaurants, the pressure mounts on the government to re-examine the legislation completely.

downtown cancun at night

Additionally, while Mexico may not have the most stellar reputation worldwide due to organized crime and allegations of dishonesty from officials, the country is a constitutional democracy where the courts are open for all citizens and businesses to challenge the government.

In other words, the businesses of Cancun aren’t fighting a losing battle and may just be able to restore this small but previously appreciated freedom to visitors of the Riviera Maya.

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Friday 31st of March 2023

Unfortunately president AMLO passed the new regulations without considering the rights & rules that the constitution provides for Mexicans, which is all too common with him, he also is building the Mayan train without the proper environmental studies.