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Spain prepares for new anti-smoking era

Source: Xinhua - Sun 2th Jan 2011

Social and cultural habits in Spain are about to change significantly, after the government's new anti-tobacco legislation takes effect from today.

Congress approved the anti-smokimng legislation before Christmas, which prohibits smoking in nearly all closed public spaces, including bars and restaurants, with only a few exceptions, such as bingo halls.

This new will ensure that Spain is brought into line with most other countries in the EU, where smoking bans have been gradually introduced in recent years over the last few years.

This is sure to bring an end to the quintessentially Spanish habit of taking a coffee and a cigarette and has divided opinion in the country between those in favor and those against this new law.

Those against the change include groups representing the bar and restaurant industry, who are worried that this will result in a loss of business, causing many to close down.

They insist that the ban will result in decrease of between 5 and 10 % in of all clients and the loss of around 50,000 jobs in a sector that employs about 1.5 million people.

Those estimated figures are challenged by the National Committee for the Prevention of Tobacco,(CNPT) which points to the experience of other EU countries in the aftermath of similar smoking bans, where it has not harmed the bar and restaurant industry.

Ireland, for example, saw growth of 13.7 % in employment in the sector, France witnessed a 3 % rise in income, while in Britain the number of bars opening grew by about 14 %.

A study undertaken by the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine found that in a survey of 2,935 people, 32.8 % said they would visit more bars if smoking was forbidden, while just half that number, 16.4 % said they were less likely to go out. A total of 68 % of those surveyed were in favor of the ban.

There is another major factor associated with the ban: a study carried out by labor unions UGT and CC.OO conformed that only 3 % of the bars and restaurants in Spain currently prohibit smoking.

That means that the vast majority of the 1.5 million workers in the sector are exposed to the risks of passive smoking and currently run a risk 30 % higher that those who work in a smoke-free atmosphere of developing lung cancer.

Around 55,000 people are estimated to die prematurely every year in Spain as a result of the effects of tobacco. More than 3,000 of those are people who suffered as a result of passive smoking.

The CNPT estimates the smoking ban will result in a decrease of around 4 % in the number of smokers in Spain. A ban on smoking in the workplace, which was introduced in 2006, reduced the number of smokers by 7 %, saving an estimated 1,855 lives a year.

An extension of the smoking ban will save over 1,000 lives a year according to the CNPT.

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