Spain's cafe smokers take last puffs before 2011 ban

Spain's cafe smokers take last puffs before 2011 ban

22nd November 2010, Comments 4 comments

Patrons of Spain's infamously smoke-clogged cafes, bars and clubs are drawing their last few puffs before a strict smoking ban is put into action 2 January, 2011.

Madrid - Patrons of Spain's infamously smoke-clogged cafes, bars and clubs are drawing their last few puffs.

Lawmakers have voted to scrap Spain's extraordinarily lax anti-tobacco legislation from January next year and replace it with one of the toughest smoking bans in Western Europe.

In a land where people light up pretty much at will in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and offices, it is a daunting prospect for both smokers and their regular haunts, many suffering in the economic crisis.

On a bright afternoon at a terrace cafe in central Madrid, 30-year-old Noemi Campos savoured one more cigarette, not relishing the prospect of a New Year without a nicotine fix to accompany her drink.

"We will only be able to smoke at home," Campos said. "If the ban comes into force in January, I will be quicker when I go to the bar and obviously consume less."

For now, the loopholes are so large in Spain's smoking legislation that many people barely give them a thought.

Patrons of Spain's infamously smoke-clogged cafes, bars and clubs are drawing their last few puffs.

 The law, introduced in 2006, allows establishments smaller than 100 square meters (1,100 square feet) to choose whether they want to be smoking or non-smoking; most allow smoking.

Bigger businesses have to set up a non-smoking zone if they want to cater for smokers, but in practice many people light up where they want.

The result is a familiar haze and scent of tobacco, including the throat-rasping black tobacco of cigarettes such as Ducados.

The new law was approved by lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies, the lower parliamentary chamber, in late October. It is almost certain to be approved by the Senate and come into force January 2 -- giving people a last cigarette in bars and clubs on New Year's Day.

It is likely to be a rude shock for some. The new law bans smoking from all enclosed public spaces and spaces of common useage. It even outlaws smoking in some open spaces such as children's parks and near hospitals.

Smokers For Tolerance Club spokesman Javier Blanco Urgoiti said it was the toughest anti-smoking law in the Europe Union, and the first in the region to proscribe smoking in the open air.

Restaurateurs are also concerned. Spanish Hospitality Federation vice president Jose Luis Guerra said the restrictions could provoke a sales decline of seven percent for restaurants, 10 percent for bars and 15 percent for night clubs.

"We are already living in tough times. We cannot afford to lose even a single job," he said.

One of the key aims of the new rules is to protect passive smokers such as waiters and waitresses.

A man takes his beer next to a smoking cigarette in an ashtray on a restaurant bar in Madrid.

Fernando Heredia, who has worked for two years as a waiter at the Los Jimenez restaurant in central Madrid, said 80 percent of people smoked as they drank their coffee or beer.

But for Heredia, the fear of losing his job is greater than the fear of the smoke. "I don't smoke so on the health side it is good," he said. "But if it loses us customers I would rather carry on being a passive smoker."

In Spain, passive smoking is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 1,500 to 3,000 people a year. But not everyone welcomes the state's help.

"Look, I can take care of my own health," said Ivan Chouza, 25-year-old waiter at the fashionable Lilith Cafe in Madrid.

Next door, at the Outlet bar, 22-year-old waiter Amine Shriyer said he totally agreed with the new law, and he hoped it would help him to stop smoking.

But he added: "It is going to create problems because people are going to drink and forget they are not supposed to smoke. And it is going to mean a lot of noise for the neighbours."

Elodie Lestrade / AFP / Expatica

4 Comments To This Article

  • Bill R posted:

    on 16th December 2010, 13:31:36 - Reply

    I would wager that you are British, that you cannot say 10 words in Spanish. and that you do not have 2 real friends that are Spanish. Try to assimilate and take some Spanish classes and you will learn to love your' new country. Bill R PS Do you actually think smoking is good for you? Have you looked at an ash tray lately? Suerte
  • Bill R posted:

    on 29th November 2010, 18:42:56 - Reply

    It does not matter where you smoke, if you smoke you are an idiot ! It is a filthy, disgusting habit and you compromise the health of anyone around you. January 2--- NO FUMAR EN ESPANA ! It's about time.
  • Rich posted:

    on 29th November 2010, 17:13:16 - Reply

    Does this mean you ant smoke on terraces outside pubs either?
  • Bill R posted:

    on 24th November 2010, 20:12:55 - Reply

    In New York City the smokers said all the bars and restaurants would lose money and some would close if smoking was outlawed. The end result was all the bars and restaurants increased their business by about 20 %. Anyone who smokes is a total moron, beside the fact that their clothes stink and their breath stinks, and a bunch of them will get lung cancer. What idiots.