Saturday, January 01, 2011

Smoking ban in Spain for 2011

Very true!!

Smoking ban in Spain for 2011




Lots of predictions will be made over the next couple of days about what will happen in Spain over 2011.  Some predictions will, obviously, be right, whilst others will probably turn out to be pure lunacy.  However, I think that I can make one prediction that will be accurate – namely that the smoking ban in Spain will change life in Spain.  

Probably for the better!

I say ‘probably for the better’ because, like most people, I worry that the smoking ban in Spain will adversely affect the bars and cafes in Spain, which are likely to lose significant business.  This is the last thing that they need when many are clinging onto life by a thread, due to the current economic crisis.

Of course, one of the great delights about life in Spain is the profusion of cafes and bars.  They are everywhere.  In fact, it is often hard to find areas (apart from new estates) where you cannot easily find a bar for a coffee or hard drink – virtually whatever the hour of the day.  

Indeed, I think that it would be no exaggeration to say that the bars and cafes of Spain are an inherent part of the day to day living culture of Spain and a vital part of the wonderful sociability of the country. 

Certainly having a coffee in a bar or cafe is cheap (in North European terms) and an unusual pleasure.  Indeed, I have never known a cafe or bar where I have been hurried by the staff – even if I have ordered no more than a single drink, whilst spending an hour reading one of their free newspapers.  This is in direct contrast to my experience of Northern Europe and the US, where bars and cafes are normally only in high street areas and virtually ‘industrial’ in their unrelaxing, urgent turnover of customers.

Meanwhile, it is common for the Spanish to actually take their own food into a cafe and eat it there – only buying their drinks from the bar owner.  This would indicate that many cafes probably barely subsist economically and will have trouble making up their income from any loss of smoking customers through (say) selling more meals.  Indeed, I fear that many bars and cafes will, sadly, be vulnerable to any turn down in business and close.  If (as is likely), this happens then, to my mind, real harm will be done to the overall quality of day to day life in Spain – for both the Spanish themselves and foreigners.

Unfortunately, the downside with Spanish bars (let alone the restaurants) is that it is virtually impossible to escape smokers.  As these make up a significant part of the Spanish population, most bars and restaurants are wreathed in smoke.  This is far from pleasant and off-putting to anyone from the US or Northern Europe, where smoking bans have been in place for some years now.

I need hardly add that the well proven dangers of smoking justify a smoking ban in Spain and that it was only a matter of time before it occurred.  As I have written before, the threat of a full-on smoking ban in Spain has been hanging over the country since the previous rather weak law passed in 2005.

In any event, as of the 2nd of January 2011 everything is set to change – with smoking  to be banned in all ‘enclosed spaces of public or collective use’. 

So, as a non-smoker, you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief when you come to Spain!  I just hope that along with this sigh of relief there will not, as I suspect, also be a groan at the disappearance of many much loved cafes and bars…

RELEVANT INFO: A really tough smoking ban in Spain or not

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