BAN. Very few bars and restaurants do not allow smoking inside. / SUR
The Ministry for Health is considering modifying the no-smoking law which came into effect in Spain in January 2006 to include a complete ban on smoking in public places, including in bars.
Spain’s Health Minister, Trinidad Jiménez, explained this week that the law is currently being debated and could be further developed. One of the reasons behind this move is the positive effect the smoking ban initially had. Just one year after the law was passed more than one million people gave up smoking. However, this trend did not continue, as was hoped, which is why the government is considering making the law even more stringent. As Jiménez points out, practically all European countries have adopted a complete ban on smoking in public areas, including Turkey which has a large smoking population.
Jiménez claims that smoking forms part of a “public health problem” which needs to be addressed. According to the minister, smokers use the public health service more than non-smokers and need to take more prescription drugs which “increases public health spending”.
If approved, the new law would go hand in hand with other measures designed to eradicate smoking in Spain such as including images of tumours, smoke-filled lungs and smoke-stained teeth on cigarette packs.
Smoking is currently only permitted in bars and restaurants which are less than 100 square metres in size, which is around 80 per cent of the total. This means that in practice the law only applies to 40,000 of the more than 350,000 bars in Spain, and the owners of these establishments are obliged to have separate areas for smokers.
Bar owners have criticised the government’s plans and say that any change to the law to ban smoking completely would result in the closure of many establishments and the subsequent loss of thousands of jobs. Javier Zamora, spokesman for a bar and restaurant owners association in Madrid, argues that many of the bar owners who invested between 8,000 and 12,000 euros in building separate smoking areas would see their money go “down the drain”. However, if the results of one survey are to be believed, a ban on smoking in all public places would be supported by more than 70 per cent of the population. Similarly, half of the 12 million smokers in Spain (30 per cent of the population) would also welcome a tougher no-smoking law.