New Anti-Tobacco laws in Spain

by Kimberly on Wednesday, October 20, 2010

no smoking, spain

For those of you who aren't used to people smoking around you while you enjoy a beer in a bar or eat in a restaurant, Spain is about to become a more inviting country to you. Spain is slated to become the first country to prohibit smoking not only in enclosed places but also in certain outdoor venues. Only California and some other American states have previously done so.

Since tobacco was first brought to Europe from the Americas, it has formed part of European and Spanish culture. Little by little, as with other countries, the dangerous of tobacco have been becoming more apparent and the restrictions are slowly being implemented.

When I first arrived in Spain in 2002, my first experience was in the baggage claim of the airport. People were smoking freely, lots of people, and I was shocked. I had never seen anyone smoke within an airport in my life. I later saw people smoking in other shocking places such as small clothing stores.

Since then, smoking has been prohibited in airports (except in specific zones), public transportation and places of work (except hospitality). However, a law a couple years back (2005) hoping to bring smoke-free bars into the midst of Spanish cities proved basically useless. The wording of the law left it basically left the decision up to the bar owner, and most opted to keep things just the way it has always been. In Salamanca, only one bar decided to become smoke free with the law.

Despite these attempts to prohibit tobacco consumption, most people turn their cheek when they see someone smoking where they are not supposed to. Just recently I was visiting an aunt in the hospital and was again shocked to see nurses and visitors alike sneaking into a private stairwell (albeit open-air) to smoke cigarettes. Additionally, I entered into the public bathroom and found it smelling of smoke and saw a recently put-out cigarette in the waste bin.

Well, Spain has an interesting mix of a large number of smokers and social indifference versus a social health care system that pays for all future health problems. The trend now, however, as in other countries, is towards restriction.

In fact, the Spanish government has just approved tougher anti-tobacco laws which prohibit for the first time ever smoking in certain open places: including hospitals grounds (YEA!), stadiums, playgrounds and school grounds. It will also prohibit smoking within public places, including for the first time ever bars and restaurants. There are some exceptions to the rule: bars, hotels, restaurants, prisons, psychiatric wards and some other facilities will be able to provide separate and specific zones for smokers.

In order for the law to go into affect it must still be approved by the senate. If it is completely approved, the new laws will take effect on January 2, 2011. Why the 2nd? The original proposal was for the 1st of January but the date was modified to avoid massive incompliance due to the New Years celebrations.

The purpose is to protect children, non-smokers and hospitality employees who up until now have not had a choice in their consumption of second hand smoke in certain places.

According to the MInistry of Health, smoking is currently the number one preventable cause of death in Spain. Each year in Spain approximately 60,000 smokers and 1,500 passive non-smokers suffer smoking related deaths.

The Health Committee is also reviewing proposals to incorporate programs to the National Health Care system dedicated to helping people who are addicted to nicotine to quit smoking. The Autonomous Communities of Spain will be responsible for ensuring compliance of the new anti-tobacco laws.

Keywords: anti tobacco law,smoking ban


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