A total smoking ban on bar and restaurant terraces is being considered in Spain

A smoker on a terrace in Vitoria. File photograph.
A smoker on a terrace in Vitoria. File photograph. / RAFA GUTIÉRREZ GARITANO
  • The Ministry of Health claims that, with tobacco smoke, "aerosols are emitted that could contribute to the transmission of the virus"

The Ministry of Health in Spain is finalising a draft proposal to prohibit smoking on the terraces of bars and restaurants, whatever the circumstance and regardless of whether or not there is a safety distance maintained from other people.

The department headed by Carolina Darias wants to approve this measure as soon as possible with the approval of all the regions claiming that with tobacco smoke "aerosols are emitted that could contribute to the transmission of the virus".

Since August 2020 smoking is only prohibited on terraces or in public if there was no possibility of maintaining a safety distance. However, six regions - the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Valencia, Asturias and Aragón extended this ban.

And now the Ministry of Health wants to replicate the measure across the entire country prohibiting the consumption of tobacco, electronic cigarettes and water pipes on outdoor terraces regardless of the safety distance of two metres.

“When smoking and exhaling the smoke, whether from conventional tobacco, electronic cigarettes and using equipment such as water pipes, tiny respiratory droplets are expelled, similar to those that are expelled when speaking, coughing, sneezing or breathing, that can contain viral load and be highly contagious. These droplets remain suspended in the air in the form of an aerosol and can travel further than larger drops and remain in the environment even after the issuing person has left it,” argues the draft text.

The Ministry of Health considers that banning smoking on the terraces would meet the "double objective" of "acting on smoking as a risk factor for infection and contagion of Covid-19, together with the need to contribute to the control of the evolution of the disease itself (smoking) in Spain.”

For this reason, it says it is essential to “avoid the consumption of tobacco products and related products on the outdoor terraces of the bar and restaurant establishments, homogeneously throughout the national territory, and regardless of the maintenance of the two metres interpersonal safe distance.”

The draft document insists that there are numerous scientific publications that argue that coronavirus is transmitted by aerosols that spread more strongly with smoke and the fact that smoking puts the health of the people around a smoker at risk when inhaling that 'infected' smoke or vapour at higher speeds and farther away.

The text that will be proposed for debate and approval by the regions – the Ministry of Health experts explained - is based on a 43-page technical document entitled "Evaluation of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through aerosols. Prevention measures and recommendations" that was published in November last year.