Spain prepares for new era as smoking ban takes effect

13:16, January 02, 2011      

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Spanish social habits will see a drastic change when the government's new anti-tobacco legislation takes effect Sunday.

The anti-tobacco law, approved by the Congress before Christmas, prohibits smoking in closed public spaces, including bars and restaurants, with few exceptions, such as bingo halls.

The law will bring Spain into line with the majority of countries in the EU, where smoking bans have been progressively introduced in recent years.

But it will mean an end to the Spanish habit of having a coffee and a cigarette and has divided opinion in the country between those in favor and those against the law.

Those against the law include groups representing the bar and restaurant sector, who are worried they will lose business, causing many to close.

They insist that the ban will cause a fall of between five and 10 percent in the number of customers and the loss of around 50,000 jobs in a sector that employs about 1.5 million people.

That prediction is questioned by the National Committee for the Prevention of Tobacco,(CNPT) which points to the experience of other EU countries, where a smoking ban has not hit the bar and restaurant industry.

Ireland, for example, saw a 13.7 percent increase in employment in the sector, France witnessed a 3 percent rise in income, while in Britain the number of bars increased by about 14 percent.

Those in favor of smoking contest those facts by using the cliched phrase 'Spain in different.'

"Spain is a country that has its own special idiosyncrasy in terms of socialization, and leisure culture in public spaces, which makes it difficult to compare with other countries," they argue.

A study carried out the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine refutes that claim. In the survey of 2,935 people, 32.8 percent said they would visit more bars if smoking was forbidden, while just half that number, 16.4 percent said they were less likely to go out. 68 percent of those questioned were in favor of the ban.

There is another major factor associated with the ban: a study carried out by labor unions UGT and CC.OO conformed that only 3 percent of the bars and restaurants in Spain currently prohibit smoking.

That means that the vast majority of the 1.5 million workers in the sector are exposed to the risks of passive smoking and currently run a risk 30 percent higher that those who work in a smoke-free atmosphere of developing lung cancer.

About 55,000 people are estimated to die prematurely every year in Spain as a result of the effects of tobacco. More than 3,000 of those are people who suffered as a result of passive smoking.

The CNPT estimates the smoking ban will cause a reduction of around 4 percent in the number of smokers in Spain. A ban on smoking in the workplace, which was introduced in 2006, reduced the number of smokers by 7 percent, saving an estimated 1,855 lives a year.

Extending the smoking ban will save over 1,000 lives a year according to the CNPT.

Source: Xinhua
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