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As a result of coordination between the federal government and Congress, the country’s smoke free legislation has become more stringent. Today, smoking is prohibited in any enclosed place, private or public. Between 2006 and 2012, the number of smokers in Brazil fell by 20% and reached its lowest level, because only 12% of Brazilians surveyed said they smoked. The data are from the Risk and Protective Factors for Chronic Disease Surveillance Telephone Survey (Vigitel, 2012) conducted annually by the Ministry of Health.
The survey is an important tool to develop preventive health policies. According to the latest one, the prevalence of smoking is higher among men (15%) than women (9%). Only 4% said they were smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day. And 21% of surveyed adults reported being ex-smokers: 24% of the men and 18.1% of the women.
Few changes, however, were so well assimilated by the population as those related to sexual health: the distribution of condoms is already part of everyday life of the population as well as advertising campaigns that directly address the issue and are now identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as exemplary.
Also in partnership with the National Congress, in June 2008 the so-called Alcohol Prohibition Law (“Lei Seca”) was enacted, which reduced the limit of alcohol allowed in the bloodstream of drivers and permitted the use of breathalyzers to prove intoxication. In just the first year of the law’s enforcement, traffic accident fatalities declined by 7.4%.
In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched global proposal of a 50% reduction in street and higher mortality by 2020. In Brazil, the government launched the STOP program, a National Pact for the Reduction of Accidents - A Pact for Life, which promotes awareness campaigns, educational and mobilization activities designed to reduce the number of deaths and other damages caused by traffic accidents.
In 2012 and 2013, Lei Seca became even stricter, allowing the use of other means to verify the state of drunk driving; if a driver blows into the breathalyzer machine and scores an alcohol percentage equal to or greater than 0.05 milligrams per liter of air, he or she will be fined and charged with a very serious offense, as foreseen in Article 165 of the Brazilian Traffic Code (CTB). Now, the government is considering sending a bill to Congress that would multiply by seven the amount of the fine for drivers who commit dangerous overtaking infractions, responsible for 44% of deaths on Brazilian roads.
The changing lifestyle in big cities, new eating habits and lack of opportunities for recreation and sports in many cities in the interior have changed the figures of Brazilians from all regions, social classes and gender. In 2012, for the first time, overweight or obese people have become a majority of the population, reaching 51% of the population. The Health Gyms were created to facilitate the population's access to exercise and reduce the threat of diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases that can kill.
The gyms are always located in places easily accessible by members of the community, with sports equipment and space to where physical education teachers and nutritionists can offer guidance. In September 2013, the population was already using 308 gyms in all states, but another 3,725 facilities had already been approved and more than R$ 481.3 million transferred to municipalities, to conclude or initiate construction.
Eating more than five grams of salt per day can cause hypertension, heart disease, kidney problems and some types of cancer. And Brazilians consume a lot of salt. Worse, they eat it without knowing because salt is present in the composition of most manufactured foods. In 2011, the government took the first step to make life healthier in Brazil by signing an agreement with the industries that produce instant noodles, bread, biscuits, cake mix and mayonnaise, to remove up to 30% of the sodium in their products.
Another agreement was signed in 2012 — in this case, with manufacturers of spices, ready-to-eat broths and margarine, who will have until 2015 to reduce the amount of sodium in the merchandise they produce. Finally, a third agreement was signed in November 2013 with the cottage cheese, bologna, sausages, cheeses and ham processing industries, which have until 2017 to conform to established standards. With this, in the next four years Brazilians should consume, on average, 63% less sodium, the main component of salt.