Up in smoke

So, the next stage of the anti-smoking legislation , which first started back in 2006, will arrive at the start of next year. As from 2 January 2011, you will no longer be able to smoke in "enclosed public places", in other words bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs; but it also encompasses some open-air areas such as children's playgrounds, and the grounds of schools and hospitals. It does not, however, include university campuses, or certain other premises, of which more later. This law, which Congress' Health Committee approved yesteday, needs to pass through the Senate before it becomes part of the constitution in the new year. Needless to say, the hosteleria industry is exceedingly nervous about the amount of custom it's going to lose. It has already predicted that 145,000 jobs will go and that revenue will drop by 10%. However the ley antitabaco also includes education programmes, teaching children about the dangers of smoking, so that hopefully for the next generation, this won't even be an issue, because by then the habit will have become so obsolete. Smoking is a way of life here - how many people have a cigarette with their early morning coffee? And then again with their breakfast coffee? And, of course, the post-prandial one. And the afternoon one. And so on. I know a couple of women who claim they don't smoke, "except for with my morning coffee, I can't have a coffee without a cigarette". And in the afternoon too? "Well, yes..." According to a survey carried out this year, the 2006 legislation had little effect, and the number of smokers in Spain remains around 35% of the population. So where can you still smoke? In hotels, 30% of rooms will be set aside for smokers. In prisons, old people's homes, residences for the physically and mentally impaired, and in long and medium-term psychiatric homes, people will be allowed to smoke, but only in assigned rooms with ventilation, or outside (unlike hopsitals). Harder for them to nip outside for a quick fag break, I guess. The media is also affected: no programmes or photos featured can show presenters or guests smoking, or mention or show, any brands or logos of any cigarette manufacturer. One popular Canal Sur interviewer, who talks to his guests through spirals of cigarette smoke, will have to change his trademark. When the law is enacted, Spain will become tougher on smoking than other European countries, where smoking sections are still allowed in restaurants. The streets outside bars, cafes and restaurants (and school and hospital gates) will become even more awash with little brown stubs. I hope local authorities put enough ashtrays there to cater for all the puffers who aren't ready to kick the weed just yet. If they do succumb, they will be fined between 30 and 600 euros. And if offenders get a choice between a fine and prison, where they can smoke, that could be a hard decision to make. And what about some free Nicorette (get your shares now, the market for quit-smoking products will go ballistic) to help those who are finally persuaded to give up, by the lack of places available to indulge their habit? And for those who stick with it (and many, many people will) punch-bags for the malas pulgas resulting from not being able to get a nicotine hit when they want one. And as for the young, the old and physically and mentally infirm - they are, of course, in such an excellent position to decide whether to improve their risk of contracting pleurisy and lung cancer. That logic comes from the land of Nod. Or maybe the view is that, if they're ancient and/or ailing already, or will never have the same quality of life as the rest of us, then they should be given a break and allowed to indulge this particular vice. Statistics I heard today state that 160 people die every day in Spain from smoking-related diseases, which includes four passive smokers - people who work in bars. Even with figures like these, I sincerely do not believe that everyone will stop. Some will, but hardened 50-somethings will carry on exactly as they always have, especially in traditional, dyed-in-the-wool, "I'm-going-to-do-what-I-want-no-matter-what-you-tell me" Seville. I will eat my hat if this ban is 100% enforced. I just don't see it happening. I'd love to hear what you think.
Blog published on 21 October 2010