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Spain

Spaniards stub out cigarettes as bars go smoke-free

Women wearing traditional sevillana dresses light their cigarettes before the New Year's celebrations in Coin near Malaga
Women wearing traditional sevillana dresses light their cigarettes before the New Year's celebrations in Coin near Malaga Reuters

One of the strictest smoking bans in Europe came into effect on Sunday in Spain, outlawing smoking in all bars and restaurants. A previous ban was introduced in 2006, but critics complained that bar and restaurant owners could bypass it.

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"It is over already. We have taken away all the ashtrays. When you look at the health question I agree but I also think there should be a minimum zone where you are allowed to smoke," said Elena de Lucia, a 22-year-old waitress, and smoker, at the Variety Tavern, a pub in central Madrid, in an interview with AFP.

Spaniards are waking up after a one-day amnesty on the New Year’s Day to a smoking ban in all restaurants and bars. It’s a tough transition in a country where lighting up a cigarette with an expresso or after nibbling on tapas is still very much part of the culture.

The Times correspondent Graham Keeley told RFI that since a previous ban came into effect in 2006, the number of smokers has actually gone up. “There’s a smoking culture here and that may take some time to die out. People have a different attitude to smoking in Spain than in the UK or France where it seems a little passé,” he said.

The previous ban allowed most bars and restaurant owners to choose whether they wanted to allow smoking on their premises.

The new ban prohibits smoking in all bars, restaurants, near hospitals and in school playgrounds. Bar and restaurants have complained that the ban will harm business.

Keeley told RFI that trade may suffer initially, but the ban is unlikely to have a longterm effect.

“Its been found that in countries where a ban has come into effect, trade hasn’t suffered. I think this is scaremongering in sectors that are already under pressure as it is,” Keeley said.

 

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