For many generations smoking in Spain has formed part of Spanish culture and it has been accepted as the norm for teenagers through to grandparents across the country to be able to smoke openly and without prejudice or fear of persecution from the law. Up until now that is.
In 2010 alone, smokers contributed over €9b euros to the Spanish economy - not including complimentary purchases of drinks or food.
However, on 2nd January 2011 new legislation came into force. As such, it became illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants and other establishments and public areas across the country. The punishments for non-compliance range from mild fines of €30 up to €600,000 in the most severe cases.
These fines are not limited to the proprietors, who are naturally cautious not to break the law, but to the wider public.
Previously, Spain had a partial smoking ban prohibiting smoking in offices, schools, hospitals and public transport, but restaurants and bars could create a "smokers section" or allow smoking if they were small (under 100m2). However this was relaxed allowing bar owners to decide whether or not they would allow smoking anywhere within their establishment (which almost all did), but the new law has stopped this practice and the freedom of owners and clientele to decide for themselves.
So what is the new smoking law exactly ?
The new smoking laws effective from 2nd January 2010 prohibit smoking in every indoor public place including:
- Public Transport
- Childcare facilities (including playgrounds)
Hotels may have up to 30% of their rooms designated as smoking rooms. Mental hospitals, prisons and old people's residences may have public rooms where workers cannot enter.
In addition, the law prevents smoking around Schools and Hospital buildings.
How can I get help to stop smoking ?
Despite Spain's Minister for Health publicly stating that the National Health service will offer support and medication to those wishing to cut down or stop smoking altogether, most of the country's 17 Autonomous Communities are refusing to offer any help as they do not have the additional funding to do this. This is looking like it will become a drawn out issue – especially when the Prime Minister gave an interview only this morning in which he told the Regional Governments that they must curb their spending.
However, tens of thousands of smokers are expected to take this opportunity to cut down or stop smoking altogether. Much like in the UK, there are treatments which can be bought over the counter to help smokers stop, but it is always advisable to speak with your local G.P. or Pharmacist to discuss all available options which are suitable for you.