News - Costa del Sol Archive 2002-6-12

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week June 6th to June 12th

Price hikes, age limits and smoke-free zones are to be introduced in a bid to cut down on tobacco-related deaths

By Avril Rentell

Smokers in Spain could soon find themselves banished to the street to practise their habit because of new regulations planned by the health authorities.

The Spanish Minister for Health, Celia Villalobos, announced on Thursday - the day before World No Smoking Day - a number of drastic, wide-ranging measures aimed at controlling smoking habits in Spain. The government has drawn up a 'National Plan for the Prevention and Control of Smoking', which, if it goes ahead as planned, could come into effect after the summer.

According to the plan, smoking is to be totally banned in public areas such as teaching institutions, health centres, hotels and public and private leisure areas.

The minimum age for purchasing cigarettes will be raised from 16 to 18 years old, with heavy fines for those caught selling tobacco to minors. Cigarette vending machines will be abolished in public buildings and private establishments and the sale of single cigarettes will also be banned.

National fiscal measures will be put into force, resulting in dramatic increases in the price of cigarettes, probably by the end of the year.

As far as the work-place is concerned, employers will be encouraged to provide separate areas for smokers. The rest of the building will be classified as a 'smoke-free zone', to protect other employees from passive smoking.
There will also be a ban on direct and indirect tobacco advertising and cigarette sponsorship, a large money-spinner in Spain, where smoking has always been seen as more acceptable than in many other European countries.
The Health Ministry's proposed plan of action has been prompted by the latest statistics on smoking in Spain.
According to official data, tobacco was the determining factor in the death of 55,163 people last year.
More than 34 per cent of the Spanish population smokes now, slightly fewer than the figure of 38.1 per cent in 1987. The government wants to reduce this figure to just 30 per cent by 2007.

The government is concerned by the increase in the number of women who smoke. This figure has increased from 23 per cent in 1987 to 27 per cent now.

The authorities also want to try to dissuade youngsters from taking up the habit. The average age at which youngsters start to smoke in Spain is 13 years old.

The Health Minister said she wanted "smoke-free zones", and added that the public has "a right to breathe air which is not contaminated by cigarette smoke". The government wants to promote non-smoking as a social virtue and Spain to have a "tobacco-free society".

However, it has said it will also look into the possibility of subsidising the cost of trying to kick the habit, reducing the cost of nicotine patches and drug treatments to help people to stop smoking.



New EU ruling a blow to Málaga, Cádiz and Almería

By Dave Jamieson and David Eade


The Junta de Andalucía estimates that around 10 per cent of the region's fishing fleet of 2,500 boats would be decommissioned, as part of the reduction of 1,700 throughout Spain, Europe's biggest fishing nation.

The new policy, aimed at reducing dwindling fish stocks, would have far-reaching effects along the coast. Cádiz with 40 per cent of the region's fleet, Málaga, with 21 per cent and Almería, with 15 per cent, are amongst the local ports which would be most affected. The Junta has also said that, throughout Andalucía, 1,300 jobs would be lost directly, with a further 5,000 indirectly.

The Cádiz Provincial Secretary of the PSOE party, Francisco González Cabaña, stated that the proposed plan 'spells the death of the Andalucian fishing sector and especially for the province of Cádiz".


The Secretary General blamed the Spanish government, which currently holds the presidency of the EU for this "disaster" and has called upon the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Greek governments to unite against the countries of Northern Europe.

Regional councillor for Agriculture and Fisheries, Paulino Plata, has also demanded the intervention of President Aznar.



By David Eade


Initially the MOD ordered an upgrade from 'Bikini Black' to 'Bikini Black Special'. Now that has been upped to 'Bikini Amber' just one level lower than maximum alert.

The public first became aware of the upgrade in security levels when Gibraltar's broadcaster, GBC, announced last Thursday that the Royal Gibraltar Police, the port authorities and MOD had instigated 'Operation Bay Watch'. This operation involved a notable increase in sea patrols and vigilance of shipping movements in both the Straits of Gibraltar area and the Bay of Gibraltar.

Since GBC broke the story, security levels have been increased yet again but the MOD, which has a policy of not commenting on security matters, has stayed silent on the subject. However MOD spokesmen have tried to calm public alarm by suggesting that the rapid increase in the security alert levels was just a routine exercise with no particular implications.


Nonetheless there is strong speculation that the increased security is due to the possibility that Al Qaeda cells are operating in the Mediterranean area. It has also been suggested that the German Intelligence Service has advised of possible attacks by Osama Ben Laden's followers on passenger liners in the Mediterranean. Gibraltar is a major cruise liner port of call but the MOD has said this theory is mere speculation.

Certainly the FBI has been warning the American public that there could be further attacks against that country's interests by Al Qaeda groups. Britain is also believed to be a target because of her staunch support of the USA's action against Al Qaeda. Gibraltar has played its part in the Afghan conflict. Therefore the Rock itself, or a visiting cruiser liner with American passengers, might be a target for terrorist groups based in the Mediterranean.



By Avril Rentell

The black box transcriptions of the conversations between the pilot and co-pilot of the Binter plane which crashed near Málaga Airport on August 29 last year on the Melilla-Málaga route, killing 4 passengers and seriously injuring 27, have shown that the accident was caused by human error after both engines were mistakenly shut down by the co-pilot.

At the court case of the crash in Málaga on Monday it was revealed that moments before the accident, the pilot, who died in the crash, had alerted the control tower that he had engine trouble and requested an emergency landing. The black box recording then confirms that after the co-pilot had shut down the left engine because of a fire warning, when he intended to activate the fire extinguisher to control the fire, he mistakenly shut down the right engine, causing the plane to go out of control and plummet to the ground.

The plane crashed onto the N-340 main road near the airport.

The lawyer representing six of the passengers on the plane believes that the judge should recall the co-pilot to the witness stand because it can now be proved that he is guilty of negligence.
At the hearing in January the co-pilot had said that he couldn't remember anything from the time the fire warning was detected on the control panel until climbing out of the cabin of the crashed plane.



Major operation detains four dangerous suspects

By Dave Jamieson

In a dramatic international operation, four alleged members of the Italian mafia were arrested in Rincón de la Victoria last week. Police believe them to be leading members of the Muzzoni clan, based in the Napoli area, specialising in robbery with violence, extortion, assaults and kidnap. One of the detained, Gaetano di Lorenzo, nicknamed "Diabolik", is listed in Italy as one of the country's most dangerous delinquents, with several international extradition orders pending.

A joint operation between the police of Spain and Italy, plus members of Interpol, which has been on-going since January, last week learned of a meeting scheduled for Thursday at the house of Di Lorenzo, in the quiet residential area of Cotomar, which would be attended by the three others. Because of the dangerous reputation of the men, the Málaga's Special Operations Group was called in, and around 14.15, officers surprised two of the men, with the wife of one and a baby. Two hours later, the other two gang members arrived for the planned meeting in an Italian-plated car, and were immediately detained. The entire operation was observed by a police helicopter. A subsequent police search of the house recovered €9,000 in cash, tools for making false identity documents, forged papers, two Mercedes vehicles and a quantity of jewellery.



By David Eade

Benalmádena is to be the first town in Spain to have a school, funded by the Town Hall, dedicated to teaching people how to prevent back problems. The objective of the school is the prevention and elimination of poor health related to problems of the spinal column and vertebrae. The first students will be Town Hall employees followed by all sectors of the people of Benalmádena.

The authorities decided to take action after a recent survey amongst the employees of the municipality and Town Hall owned companies. It was found that one in four workers suffered from back-related problems. Indeed more than 100 workers suffered habitually from muscle contractions, back pain, lumbago, scoliosis and limited mobility.

These findings led to the Town Hall's doctor, Gustavo Nofuentes, setting up this unique municipal school complete with lecture rooms and a professor. Sr Nofuentes believes that 10 per cent of young people aged between 9 and 12 years are affected by back-related problems. In addition so too are 60 per cent of people aged over 65.

The courses will last for three weeks and be held in the Edificio Oviode in Arroyo de la Miel. There will be classes of between an hour and 90 minutes every morning. Eventually it is planned to move the classes to the new acclimatised swimming pool that is being built in the municipality.



Málaga Book Fair continues until Sunday

By Dave Jamieson

Málaga's 32nd Book Fair, presently underway in the Paseo del Parque, has more than 40,000 titles on display. Authors from Málaga and elsewhere in Andalucía are attending the event, which showcases some of the latest offerings from Spanish publishing houses.

At the opening, the Málaga writer José Antonio del Cañizo received recognition for his promotion of culture and books. In a speech, Del Cañizo said that Spain was at an important moment for infant and juvenile publishing, for it was important to form the habit of reading. "In the same way that football and athletic teams have a training-ground, culture has to have a training-ground for readers," he added.

As well as workshops, lectures and, for the first time, street theatre, there are 48 exhibitors at this years Fair, which continues until Sunday.