5000 Citizens v. Article 3 of Law Nº 28705

5000 Citizens v. Article 3 of Law Nº 28705, Tribunal Constitucional [Constitutional Court] July 19, 2011, EXP. N.º 00032-2010-PI/TC (Peru).
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Country: Peru
Region: Americas
Year: 2011
Court: Constitutional Court
Health Topics: Tobacco
Human Rights: Right to health, Right to liberty and security of person
Tags: Second-hand smoke, Smoking, Tobacco control, Tobacco regulation

5,000 Peruvian citizens presented an action before the Constitutional Court claiming the unconstitutionality of Article 3 of Law 28705, Law for the Prevention and Control of Tobacco Consumption Risks. This clause prohibits smoking in all health and educational establishments, public institutions, inside of work places, closed public places and any means of public transport, making them 100% smoke free.

The plaintiffs claimed that this measure is too extreme because it prohibits smoking in establishments exclusively for smokers and in open areas of higher learning institutions for adults, going beyond the scope of Article 8 of the Constitution, which states that the “government … regulates social evils.” It is also argued that this prohibition goes against smokers’ right to personal autonomy because it prevents them from having the liberty to smoke, even when not affecting the rights of non-smokers. The plaintiffs further argued that the law violates both the right to commerce as well as the right to economic freedom. According to the plaintiffs, there are less restrictive measures that could be taken, such as establishing specific smoking areas, maximum limits for the presence of toxic substances and adequate ventilation systems. In addition, it is argued that freedom from discrimination is being breached by showing intolerance towards smoking and that the principle of proportionality is not being met.

The Peruvian government argued that the law was not unconstitutional. The government affirmed that the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) is part of the local judicial system at the same hierarchical level as the Constitution because it is a treaty on the right to health, and therefore, it is a human rights treaty. According to the FCTC, Peru must legislate in order to reduce tobacco consumption in a continuous and substantial manner as well as reducing exposure to tobacco smoke. The government further argued that the law only establishes a smoking ban in certain areas and does not prohibit smoking overall. Also, the government argued that the right to personal autonomy would go against the right to health of workers even in the case of smoking personnel. Moreover, the government claimed that the right to commerce must not put at risk the health of others nor go against the general interests of society. The government stated that according to multiple reports and scientific evidence, making public spaces 100% smoke-free is the only effective measure to guarantee the right to health, making this clause proportional in a strict sense because the right to health is preserved more so than the right to personal autonomy, the right to commerce or the right to economic freedom are affected.

The Court found that the right to personal autonomy must be protected unless it interferes with another person’s liberty and personal autonomy. As long as it passes the proportionality principle test, the right to personal autonomy can be limited.

The Court found that the law not only limits personal autonomy but also the right to commerce and the right to economic freedom. However, the Court held that in both cases, this does not necessarily make them unconstitutional because no right is absolute. The right to commerce cannot go against the general interests of the community nor should it be harmful towards health or public security. Like the right to personal autonomy, these rights can be limited if they pass the proportionality principle test by proving that they have a constitutionally valid goal; that these are the ideal means to reach it; that they are necessary; and finally, that they are strictly proportional. The main goal is to protect the health of non-smokers and of the smokers themselves.

Regarding whether protecting the health of smokers by limiting their freedom to smoke is a constitutionally valid goal, the Court found that it is not only permitted by the Constitution, but it is a goal that is constitutionally obligatory because Peru ratified the FCTC. The Court held that the FCTC is a treaty relating to human rights because it protects the right to health and therefore has constitutional range. Although the FCTC does not present a new right, it does force States in a clear and direct manner to adopt measures that contribute to optimizing the fulfillment of the right to health. Furthermore the Court held that the government can act even further than what is stated in the FCTC. The Court found that it is the most efficient method because it is proven that making places completely smoke-free is the only measure that will completely reduce health risks. Smoking cannot consist a valid work risk because it is not necessary for the activity to occur; restaurants and bars can still operate even without smoking unlike other industries where certain health risks are necessary for the fulfillment of the work.

To finish analyzing whether the limits were constitutional the Court resolved whether they overcome the proportionality principle in a strict sense. The Court held that this principle is overcome if the degree of impact that it generates on the restricted rights is less than the degree of satisfaction generated in relation to the rights that it seeks to constitutionally protect. The Court considers that the limits proposed by the law overcome the proportionality principle and are therefore constitutional.

Because of all the previous arguments the Court dismissed the plaintiffs suit and confirmed the constitutionality and legality of Law 28705. The Court further held that because the State must protect the highest possible level of the right to health and in a progressive manner, the state cannot adopt less protective measures in the fight against the tobacco epidemic in comparison to the current legislation.

"83. Hasta ahora, resumidamente, ha quedado establecido que las prohibiciones de crear espacios públicos cerrados solo para fumadores, y de fumar en las áreas abiertas de los establecimientos dedicados a la educación que sean solo para adultos, a) limitan el contenido constitucionalmente protegido de los derechos fundamentales al libre desarrollo de la personalidad, a la libre iniciativa privada y a la libertad de empresa; b) tienen como finalidad inmediata reducir el consumo del tabaco y como finalidades mediatas, proteger la salud de los propios fumadores y reducir los costos institucionales que genera la atención sanitaria por las enfermedades graves que el consumo de tabaco ocasiona; c) tales finalidades no solo son constitucionalmente válidas, sino que la finalidad de reducir continua y sustancialmente el consumo de tabaco es una obligación del Estado, tal como lo establece el artículo 3º del Convenio Marco de la OMS para el Control del Tabaco."

"104. De esta manera, cuando los demandantes proponen como medida alternativa la creación de áreas para fumadores en los espacios públicos cerrados, no solo están proponiendo una medida que no contribuye en igual medida a alcanzar la finalidad que persiguen las prohibiciones cuestionadas (pues no disminuyen el consumo de tabaco con la intensidad con la que puede lograrlo la prohibición absoluta de fumar en los espacios públicos cerrados y en los centros educativos), sino que además están proponiendo una medida inconstitucional."

"112. En esa línea, el Tribunal Constitucional comparte la posición del O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, de la Escuela de Derecho de la Universidad de Georgetown, la Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids y la Alianza para el Convenio Marco, en el sentido de que “[l]os trabajos de riesgo son tales cuando el carácter riesgoso es inescindible a la actividad laboral, lo cual ciertamente no es el caso de bares o restaurantes u otros lugares públicos cerrados” (cfr. Informe, p. 5)."

"141. En consecuencia, dado que las prohibiciones de crear espacios públicos cerrados solo para fumadores, y de fumar en las áreas abiertas de los establecimientos dedicados a la educación que sean solo para adultos, restringen solo en menor grado los derechos fundamentales al libre desarrollo de la personalidad, a la libre iniciativa privada y a la libertad de empresa, y, en contraposición a ello, alcanzan en un nivel altamente satisfactorio la protección del derecho fundamental a la salud, reduciendo significativamente el consumo de una sustancia con alto efecto adictivo y sumamente dañina no solo para la salud de quien fuma, sino también para quien no lo hace, el Tribunal Constitucional considera que tales prohibiciones superan el subprincipio de proporcionalidad en sentido estricto y resultan, en definitiva, constitucionales. Corresponde, por consiguiente, desestimar la demanda.

Por estos fundamentos, el Tribunal Constitucional, con la autoridad que le confiere la Constitución Política del Perú

HA RESUELTO

1. Declarar INFUNDADA la demanda.

2. De conformidad con los fundamentos 142 a 148 supra, en atención a lo previsto en el artículo 3º del Convenio Marco de la OMS para el Control del Tabaco, y al deber del Estado de proteger en el más alto nivel posible y de manera progresiva el derecho fundamental a la salud, reconocido en el artículo 7º de la Constitución, se encuentra constitucionalmente prohibido que en el futuro se adopten medidas legislativas o de otra índole que protejan en menor grado el derecho fundamental a la salud frente a la epidemia del tabaquismo, en comparación a la manera cómo lo hace la legislación actual."

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