Confusion and surprise are being felt in Spain, as a stricter nationwide ban on smoking in public places firmly takes hold. But smokers in the European Union nation are said to be generally complying with the new law.
Up until last Sunday, a number of loopholes existed in the previous ban that enabled smokers to light up in bars and restaurants, as long as the owners of the establishments allowed it. Now, though, the PC Patrol in the guise of the Spanish government has trampled on a person’s right to smoke in public places.
The new law effectively bans smoking in enclosed public areas where others may be exposed to smoke. A couple of exceptions are permitted, mainly specifically set-aside rooms in hotels and other lodging establishments—under 30% of the total space—and in “smoking zones” in prisons and long-term psychiatric facilities.
How are smokers in Spain taking all of this? According to El País:
Spaniards were “reasonably” compliant with the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, according to Dionisio Lara, of the Spanish Service Industry Federation, who reported that drinkers had shifted to outdoor tables en masse. Regulations forbidding smoking within 100 meters of health centers were less rigorously observed and smokers could be seen puffing away at the entrance to various Madrid hospitals.
Lara reported that drinkers had reacted with “surprise” and “confusion” when told to stop smoking by bar owners … Others took advantage of being sent outside to leave without paying.
Justifying it all, though, is Health Minister Leir Pajin, who is quoted as saying:
“We should remember that more than 70 per cent of Spain’s population are non-smokers. So it is logical to think they will be more comfortable in bars when there is no tobacco smoke in them.”
Violating the ban will cost the offender anywhere from €30 to €600,000 ($39.43 to $788,580). The country as a whole, meantime, will lose 350,000 jobs, according to the Spanish Federation of Hostelry. Both smokers and owners of workplaces can be fined for non-compliance.