Temas Especiales

23 de Nov de 2020


When smoke gets in your eyes

This week, Panama received a prestigious international award for its anti-smoking efforts. It was accepted by Dr Nelyda Gligo President ...

This week, Panama received a prestigious international award for its anti-smoking efforts. It was accepted by Dr Nelyda Gligo President of the Panamanian Coalition Against Smoking. The coalition’s efforts have led to a total ban on advertising or promotion of cigarettes in the country and the government followed up with a ban on smoking in restaurants and public places. But, like so many worthy causes, laws without enforcement are just words on paper.

Anyone driving in Panama City for more than half an hour can bear witness to the flouting of rules on a major scale, from speeding to light jumping, lane changing and turning with no signals. Diablos rojos and trucks belch black fumes while performing all of the above misdemeanors. Taxis live in a dream land of their own, and add refusal to take passengers to where they want to go to their list of sins.

Breaking no smoking laws hasn’t yet reached that level of visibility, but in the past week I have received a number of reports of infringements and witnessed others. In the early days of the ban on smoking in restaurants, there were reports from the government office of the number of complaints phoned in to à snitch line. This week a reader called the same office four times, and the phone was not answered.

In the recently opened Havana bar in Casco Viejo, it seems that the staff are unaware of the ban on smoking. The bar, reflecting it’s Cuban name, is without no smoking signs, but proudly sports photos of a young boy smoking a cigar. On a recent visit I saw tourist customers at two tables puffing away, oblivious to local laws and, as with many smokers, to the discomfort of non smokers at nearby tables. The customers had even been provided with ash trays. When this was pointed out to a waiter, he looked across at the on-duty manager, and did nothing. When the manager was informed, he scurried back behind the bar.

Later the waiter mentioned the no smoking rules to one group, and was told to “forget it”. Calls to the snitch line were not answered.

In the upscale Terrazas in Multiplaza ash trays sit on the table in the lounge area just inside the door leading to the mall proper. The area is totally covered and adjacent to an open door leading into an enclosed coffee shop. Lax enforcement or a misinterpretation of the rules? And why is management so subservient to the habits of the few?

TRAFFIC’S A BREEZE. A loyal reader wrote recently about my listing of the things I loved about living in Panama. Tongue in cheek, I had referred to the traffic (compared with Los Angeles where it can take you two and a half hours to get to work by car). I could have added Toronto, where at downtown rush hour it once took me 45 minutes to travel two blocks, and I have suffered the horrors of driving in major cities around the world. Fortunately, because they had done some forward planning most of them have a workable public transit system as an option.

The reader pointed out that L.A. has a bigger population than Panama hence the jams, which to me is akin to understanding that the guy who just bopped you on the head and lifted your wallet had a deprived upbringing. The pain is still there, and my wallet has gone. A protracted sojourn in traffic, is a pain, and knowing the population size won’t send it away.

But I appreciate the comments, and totally agree that our traffic system is a mess, and gets worse by the day as more cars are added, in spite of the downturn in sales. We need a workable public transit system which would also lead to a reduction in the 30,000 taxis that circle the city. We need enforcement of parking rules, construction of parking lots, better roads and more.

But don’t expect that any time soon. The Transmovil program seems to have been forgotten. and the buck goes to the next government.