Bars and restaurants on the warpath after smoking ban on terraces is mooted in Spain

The Ministry of Health is also considering the prohibition of smoking in private cars, the generic packaging of cigarette brands and raising taxes on tobacco to try and cut down consumption


“Again they are picking on the sector. And it is unworkable” declared José Luis Yzuel, president of the Hospitality Industry of Spain, after waking to the news that the national Ministry of Health is preparing an ambitious new anti-smoking law that considers, among other measures, increasing the number smoke-free spaces, and banning smoking on the terraces of bars and restaurants.

“It is sad. They create an issue with our customers when right now there is no problem," says Yzuel, who explains that when someone lights a cigarette on a terrace and another customer complains, one of the two "changes place and there is no problem."

The Aragon businessman believes that it makes no sense to ban smoking on the terraces, and wonders, "if a person is not going to be able to smoke on a terrace, if he sits on a bench half a metre away, is he going to be able to? It's stupid".

Yzuel, who chairs the organisation that represents the bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs of Spain, believes that there will be businesses in the hospitality sector who will voluntarily join anti-smoking campaigns and not allow customers to smoke on their terraces, “but that is something very different to banning it in a generalised way.” He complains of the pressure of the anti-smoking movements and of scientific groups such as the Spanish Society of Pneumology, but insists that “smoking outdoors does not bother anyone”.

“It is an approach of total hypocrisy and cynicism,” said Yzuel, “On the one hand, the State collects hundreds of millions of euros in taxes from tobacco and instead of raising awareness and respecting the freedom of businesses, it bans it.”

Smoking in the car

The measure to prohibit smoking on the terraces is part of the battery of initiatives proposed by Spain’s Ministry of Health and which also suggest the prohibition of smoking in private cars, the generic packaging of tobacco brands, equalising the restrictions to e-cigarettes and raising taxes on tobacco.

They are included in draft of the 'Comprehensive Plan for the Prevention and Control of Smoking 2021-2025', a 119-page document that seeks to achieve "a generation free of tobacco" hand in hand with the standards set by the European Union and the World Health Organization. The intention is that "before the year 2023" the number of smoke-free spaces is increased.

More strictly regulated

The General Directorate of Public Health also wants the "advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco-related products" to be more strictly regulated, as well as their sale and consumption, either "with or without nicotine.” It also wants to stop covert advertising and promotions on social media networks and platforms.

According to last year's European Health Survey, 16.4 per cent of women and 23.3 per cent of men smoke daily in Spain.