Spain passes tobacco law, but bars to stay smoky
MADRID: Spain passed a law aimed at cutting smoking in public places on Thursday, but bar owners plan to exploit a loophole to make sure their bars remain havens for Spain's millions of smokers.
In Spain until recently it was not unusual to see doctors smoking in their surgeries, but now the government has made it obligatory for restaurants and bars over 100 square metres to set up non-smoking sections next year.
Smaller venues have to choose whether to ban or allow smoking on their premises and many owners of small bars, which dominate Spanish night life, say they have never even considered opting for a ban.
"If I want my business to work then I'd better let people come in and smoke," Alfredo Amarilla, owner of Taberna de Conspiradores in the popular La Latina district, said.
He said most of his regulars smoked.
The manager of El Tomas, in the same area, agreed.
"We want people to keep smoking and drinking ... The way people think in this country is `I won't go to a bar where I can't smoke'," Jose Barcena said, speaking soon after the new law won final approval from parliament.
The law in Spain, where the government says a third of the population smokes every day and 50,000 die from tobacco each year, is much softer than legislation in countries such as the United States, Ireland and Italy.
The new Spanish law also bans tobacco advertising in all media, outlaws smoking in offices, schools and shopping centres and raises the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 18 from 16.
Children will be banned from smoking areas in venues larger than 100 square metres and the law gives local authorities the power to ban children from small bars where smoking is allowed.
That possibility has enraged some bar owners in Spain, where families often take their children to bars and cafes.
"Who am I to say whether someone can come in here with their child? I'm not responsible for the child," said the owner of La Cava de Illan bar, where the rich odour of cured Spanish ham overpowers the lingering smell of smoke.
AdvertisementAdvertisementHealth Minister Elena Salgado said on Thursday she wanted the new law to reduce smoking by 5 percent in two years.
But 30-year-old jewellery designer Josefina Suarez says Spaniards will be reluctant to change.
"Spain is the country where we have the most vices, where people drink most, where they smoke most, where you go to most parties. That's just typical Spain."