Friday, January 13, 2006


THE new law banning smoking in almost all public places faces its biggest test as the country returns to work this week.

The law, which came into effect on Sunday, January 1, makes it

illegal to smoke in the workplace, and bars and restaurants over 100 square metres are obliged to provide non-smoking areas.

Smaller bars have to decide if they want to allow smoking or not. All must, by law, show signs saying if they will allow people to light up or not.

The number of places where people can buy tobacco will be cut by 40 per cent, with cigarettes and cigars only on sale at controlled vending machines and tobacconists.

Fines can be imposed for those who break the law, ranging from 30 to 600,000 euros.

However, a random poll by EWN reporters in the Costa Blanca indicated that little has changed since the new law came into effect.

Many of the smaller bar and restaurant owners say they are still in the dark as far the legislation is concerned, and that most of the information they have received has been via the media and not through official channels.

The owner of the El Cau bar in Polop, Ian Hartley, said that he had acted on his own initiative in the absence of any official directives and that neither the town hall nor his lawyer had given him any advice.

This was the case in 90 per cent of the establishments visited in the Marina Alta and the Marina Baixa area.

Talking privately to members of the police, most are reluctant to be the first enforcer in Spain to test the new law.

In six establishments north of Torrevieja which the team visited, it seemed as though no-one had even heard about the new law. Ashtrays were still on the tables, there was no signage about their smoking policy and children were still permitted in the smoke-filled bars.

Members of the public also seemed to be in the dark. From the 21 people we spoke to at random, only a third knew of the new restrictions and even they were not fully aware of the exact detail. The non-smokers welcomed the new law but failed to see how it was going to be policed.

The idea of a hospitality venue with a tobacco-free atmosphere would be welcomed by the vast majority of people we spoke to. The trouble is, they haven?t found one yet.

The smokers were not unduly concerned; they said they would always find a bar to smoke in. And if they couldn?t, they would just nip outside to light up.

Many hotels in Benidorm have removed machines that dispense cigarettes from within their public areas and from offices.

However, despite this, the Hoteliers Association HOSBEC has advised the government that its members cannot possibly comply with all the terms and details of the new law in time.

Opinion polls have found that although 77 per cent of Spaniards are in favour of the law, 69 per cent think it will be hard to enforce.

The Spanish Government is expected to earn 3,824 million euros in tax on cigarettes next year, which represents a 12 per cent increase over this year.

Elena Salgado, Spain's Health Minister, said that until now, Spain has been one of Europe's most ?permissive? countries in Europe in terms of the price of cigarettes and the availability of places where people can smoke.

The number of smokers in Spain is slowly going down, but is still

high compared to many other European countries. Some 31 per cent of Spaniards are smokers (compared to 35 per cent five years ago) and 50,000 people die from smoking-related diseases each year. Spain was one of the last countries to ban smoking on

international flights.

The government hopes to reach consensus with all the affected groups in terms of advertising, public spaces where smoking is allowed and the legal age at which teenagers are allowed

to buy cigarrettes - the Health Minister has already announced that fines imposed for selling tobacco to teenagers under the age-limit will be severe.

Smoking is now forbidden in all closed places of work in the private and public sectors; in all health and education centres; sport facilities; centres offering advice and attention to citizens; centres offering help to teenagers under 18; and places where food is prepared, made or sold.

It is also forbidden to smoke in all lifts, telephone booths, indoor cashpoints, bus stations and all areas of public transport which are not open air, such as metro, indoor bus stations, railway stations and airports.


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