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Palencia business owners protest against smoking laws

Wed 26th Jan 2011

Many businesses in Palencia were closed today by way of protest against Spain's country's new anti-smoking law which took effect on the 2nd of January.

About 100 bar, restaurant and hotel owners staged a protest march, with some of them carrying banners proclaiming messages such as "If you don't allow smoking, we don't get paid. Let us live" and "Total ban, sector ruined."

Business associations reported that between 60 - 70 % of the hotels and restaurants in the town of around 80,000 people were closed over the course of the day.

So far this has been Spain's first large scale demonstration against the anti-smoking law, one of the strictest in Europe, since it was introduced earlier on in the year.

The new law prohibits smoking in all enclosed public areas, such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs and it also makes it illegal to smoke in children's parks or anywhere on school or hospital grounds.

The industry has concerns that the law could cause business to decline by between 5 - 15 %.

Last week, the Spanish Hotel and Catering Association launched an attempt to collect half a million signatures on a petition to demand that the government changes the legislation.

Spain's previous anti-smoking law was introduced in January 2006, but was ambiguous and the overall impact was negligable.

The previous law prohibited smoking in the workplace, on public transport and in shops. But it allowed owners of bars, restaurants and cafes to have the decisio as to whether to allow smoking or not. Most, fearing that a change would result in a drop in business, chose to simply do nothing and continue to allow their customers to smoke.

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