These Travel Hotspots Have New Smoking Bans & Threaten Jail Or Huge Fines For Lighting Up

Places to kick the habit or avoid secondhand smoke. 🚭

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​No smoking on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

No smoking on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

Your dream destination may be one with strict anti-tobacco laws in 2023 — like Mexico, which outlawed smoking in all public places, including resorts, on January 15. But that doesn't mean your vacation plans should go up in smoke.

Greece, Bulgaria, Malta and Hungary have complete bans on smoking in all enclosed public spaces, while tourists using e-cigarettes in Thailand could face up to a decade in prison or $1,200 fines.

Tobacco-consuming tourists may need to exercise caution when lighting up in these countries but could use their travel time to kick the habit, while non-smokers might enjoy fewer holiday encounters with secondhand smoke.

Here's the latest on travel hotspots with smoking bans and related restrictions, and what they mean for travellers:

​Mexico

\u200bThe Mexico City skyline.

The Mexico City skyline.

Arturoosorno | Dreamstime

Mexico has implemented some of the strictest anti-smoking rules in the world. As of January 15, 2023, it's illegal to smoke in public places across the country, including hotels, beaches, outdoor venues and parks. Basically, unless you're within the confines of a private home, you can't legally light up.

The advertising and sale of tobacco products is now severely restricted, so is the use of e-cigarettes and vapes.

People who are caught smoking, including foreign visitors, could be slapped with fines up to $400 or face jail time for non-compliance.

​Spain

\u200bPeople on a beach in Barcelona.

People on a beach in Barcelona.

Toxawww | Dreamstime

Barcelona banned all smoking on beaches in 2022 and anyone found breaking the rules could face staggering fines of up to $2,900. Similar smoking bans have since been enacted on over 100 beaches in Andalusia, Galicia, Valencia and the Canary Islands.

An earlier pilot project showed a significant reduction in the number of cigarette butts littering Spanish sand. The filters in cigarette stubs, often flicked haphazardly onto the ground, are made up of non-biodegradable plastic fibres covered in toxic chemicals that don't break down with time so they end up clogging waterways and killing marine life.

Legislators in Spain are now also considering a law to ban lighting up in private cars.

​Costa Rica

\u200bPeople at Oropendola Waterfall in Costa Rica.

People at Oropendola Waterfall in Costa Rica.

Michael Smith | Dreamstime

Cigarette smoking is banned in Costa Rican offices, restaurants, bus stops and taxi stands — anywhere that could expose others to secondhand smoke. The use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices was similarly restricted in 2022.

Almost all tobacco advertising is against the law, except for private vendors, adult-only venues and events without a smoke-free space.

While regulations are strict, and it may take extra effort, if you make a point to light up away from other people there shouldn't be an issue.

New Zealand​ & Australia

\u200bPeople on the shore of lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand.

People on the shore of lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand.

Hugoht | Dreamstime

New Zealand is phasing in a near-total tobacco ban this year with the goal of being "smoke-free" by 2025. Cigarettes purchased on the island will be weaker with less nicotine and more difficult to buy since the number of retailers is being reduced by 90% (down to 600, from 6,000).

Travellers to the country can bring duty-free tobacco limited to 50 cigarettes, 50 grams of cigars, or tobacco products, or 50 grams of a mixture of all three. You'll have to declare if you're over limit and pay duty and GST on the excess amount. If you don't declare it, the tobacco could be seized and further penalties ensue.

Meanwhile, Australian Customs allows tourists to bring in one unopened and one opened pack of duty-free cigarettes (up to 25 cigs or 25 g of tobacco products). The rules are much stricter for vapes and e-cigarettes. You'll need to apply for a permit to use liquid nicotine products in the country. If you don't have documentation, you could face huge fines and some states even issue prison sentences for importing e-liquid containing nicotine.

Ireland

People walk around the Temple Bar district in Dublin.

People walk around the Temple Bar district in Dublin.

Patricia Hofmeester | Dreamstime

Ireland is among the stricter EU countries when it comes to anti-tobacco laws. Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public spaces, workplaces, restaurants, bars and public transport with fines of over $4K possible for non-compliance. That means smoking is mostly relegated to the outdoors, although some hotels still have smoking rooms.

Anyone going to buy smokes in Ireland will find them packaged plainly. The country has banned tobacco displays, so cigarettes are hidden behind the counter, although stores can advertise that they sell tobacco. Customers who want to know what brands are available can request a card showing a picture-based list.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an Associate Editor for MTL Blog focused on gas prices in Montreal and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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