October 21, 2010 - An anti-smoking bill passed by parliamentary commission calls for transforming all bars and restaurants into no-smoking zones, bringing Spain in line with the European Union's strictest anti-smoking nations and many U.S. states that bar smoking in enclosed public places. It's expected to pass the Senate and become law on January 2, 2011. (Why the 2nd and not the 1st - the law to take effect on January 2 - instead of a day earlier, the peak of Spain's weeklong spell of Christmas and New Year's festivities that draws huge crowds of Spaniards to bars and restaurants.)
The law also will make Spain a tougher place to smoke than many other European countries where bars and restaurants are still allowed to have smoking sections, and will prohibit smoking in outdoor places such as playgrounds and the grounds of schools and hospitals.
Background: The current legislation which has been in place since 2006 forbids smoking in the workplace and on public transport, but permits the smaller bars and restaurants to choose whether to allow smoking on the premises or not. If they do allow it, they must provide a separate closed-off area for smokers. The subject has been confused at best and when a stronger law was first discussed properly in 2009, a specific date to impose the smoking ban in 2010 was never decided upon.Spain's main restaurant and bar federation predicted the law will lead to 145,000 lost jobs and a 10 percent decline in revenue for the sector, but the Health Ministry said similar laws put in place in recent years in nations ranging from Britain to France and Italy did not hurt business badly.
Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez noted that smokers will still be allowed to smoke on the open-air terraces of bars, and many Spanish bars have them, often setting up tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Other exceptions were provided for jails, psychiatric institutions and retirement homes.
Spain's National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking says up to 1,000 Spanish bar waiters die yearly from lung cancer, mainly from breathing in so much second hand smoke.
Many more lives would be saved eventually in Spain by making it more difficult for smokers to puff away almost anywhere, said Dr. Jose Carreras who heads the anti-smoking unit at Madrid's Hospital Carlos III. (Spain - doctors call for tobacco sales banned in vending machine in bars and from kiosks..)
The bill endorsed by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his governing Socialist Party next goes for debate in the Senate where it is likely to be approved quickly or sent back with minor changes for approval in the lower house.
There are 17 regional autonomous governments within Spain. The Basque region has a new anti-smoking law that if passed by parliament is expected to come into force at the start of 2011. (Spain - the Basque Governing Council gives green to the latest anti-smoking bill..)
Reference: Spain's smoking ban sparks controversy by Ciaran Giles Associated Press Writer (Associated Press Writers Jorge Sainz and Alan Clendenning and Associated Press Television News Producer Iain Sullivan in Madrid contributed to this report), Associated Press, 10/20/2010.
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