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No Smoking Law in Spain

Updated on December 9, 2012

Sunday, January the 2nd, 2011, saw Spain introducing the most severe no smoking in public places law in the whole of Europe.

From this date, it is now illegal to smoke in bars, clubs and restaurants as well as in the general workplace as their first no smoking ban, passed in 2006, had already put in place, but with the choice placed on the owner to become smoking or non-smoking if the premises were under 100 square metres.

This choice is now taken away. There is to be no smoking at all.

In addition, one may not smoke outdoors near a children's playground, nor near schools. Live television broadcasts will not be allowed to show someone smoking, and smoking will be banned in hospital grounds as well as inside the buildings.

The only exception will be allowed for prisons, psychiatric units and long stay care units.

Strangely, the bill has not yet passed senate although it is being applied from January 2, 2011. Powerful lobbies from the bigger restauranteurs are demanding a compensation system is put in place for their members who spent thousands of euros making the required changes the government demanded when their first No Smoking Law was passed in 2006.

At that time, smoking was banned in all public places except small bars and restaurants. Larger bars or restaurants over 100 m2 were required to install a separate smokers area. This area had to be partitioned off, with the installation of expensive smoke extraction equipment to take the smoke away.

While the choice was left with the bar owner to be smoking or no smoking, bar owners who opted to become non-smoking quickly saw a steep drop off in trade. Because of this they soon allowed smoking again, and many went to great expense to provide an area for smokers that left the rest of their patrons in a smoke free area.

The only legal requirement on the bar owner was to display a prominent notice outside their premises to say whether or not they permitted smoking.

This way, people who were seriously anti-smoking had the choice of whether to enter or not.

Also in 2006 with the first No Smoking Law, the right to sell cigarettes was taken away from shops, filling stations and alll the traditional places one may have bought tobacco.

Instead, one could only buy cigarettes and tobacco from government licensed "estancos", clearly visible by the yellow and brown "tabacos" logo.

There is generally one estanco in each village, larger villages possibly having 2 or more depending on their population.

The only other way you can buy cigarettes is through a cigarette machine situated in pubs, restaurants and hotels.These machines are expensive, and the cost of the licence required to operate them prohibitive.

Not only that, but the price of cigarettes is strictly controlled by the government, and machine cigarettes can only be sold at 15 cents a packet more than at the Estancos.

As a result, many bars do not have the equipment.

For those that do, they must also operate the machine remotely from behind the bar, to prevent anyone under 18 years old from buying cigarettes.

Cigarette machines in hotels must be unplugged when their bar shuts, so it was no longer possible for revellers to return to their hotel in the early hours and buy packets from the machine.

Strange but True

Smoking will be permitted in private member's clubs, provided the club apply for a special licence. Once granted, members will be allowed to smoke to their hearts content.

However, those smoking clubs will not be allowed to serve any food or drink, whether bought or brought in to the premises by the patrons themselves.

Nor will any children be allowed in.

What is the point in that? You can go to the club but not even have a coffee with your cigarette. Might as well stay at home!

The Spanish people have a smoking tradition dating back 500 years ever since Spaniard Christopher Columbus brought tobacco back from his travels to the New World.

In recent years, the Spanish government has put the price of cigarettes up to prohibitive levels supposedly to try and reduce smoking levels, but it is generally known that the country is almost bankrupt in the depth ofrecession and another income source is always welcome.

What will happen to Spain's bars, restaurants and clubs now?

It is widely reported in the media that the smoking ban in other countries has been successful, but if you look around you will see instead that not only have a huge number of bars gone out of business, but that people are more likely to buy drink from cheap supermarkets to drink at home, perhaps with friends round, rather than go out to the bars where they are treated like social lepers.

It is normal in Spain for the men to relax in a pub or bar at any time of the day with a couple of cañas (pr.canyas) and a tapas or two. Now that Antonio or Raul can no longer smoke they may well stay away, or else just have a quick caña (small beer) and leave.

Family life also revolves around bars. Fathers will simply not enter bars where their children aren't welcome too. For generations, Spanish children have grown up around a bar culture and as adults they respect alcohol. It is very seldom you ever see a Spaniard drunk.

The chances of these families visiting bars is now considerably reduced, though you may indeed see an increase in mothers taking their children into bars which is not good for the bar owner's profits.

Those wanting a quiet drink will find it almost impossible as bars turn into nurseries.

This will detrimentally affect the bar owners profits and long-term his ability to stay open will be put in doubt.

bars of the future in Spain? Empty.
bars of the future in Spain? Empty.

A lot of people have argued that the smoker's ability to smoke outside the bars with their many terraces and street tables will keep small bar owners afloat.

Two points here, not every bar has a terrace, and even for those who do, the weather is not all sunshine and warmth.

In winter, it is cold, especially after sunset which occurs at about 5pm. It is frequently windy, and when it rains it is impossible to stand in the street.

Holland has just repealed its No Smoking in small bars law. Perhaps in future that will happen in Spain too.

If you are travelling to Spain on vacation and wish to know the current prices of tobacco in Spain, simply check out any online 'estanco', as the prices are the same no matter where you go.

Check out Eurotobaco for exchange rates too.


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