Spain - government postpones debate on tougher smoking legislation..

February 16, 2010 - The Spanish government has postponed a parliamentary debate on tougher anti-smoking legislation in the hope of mustering more support for the controversial plan, sources of the Health Ministry said Monday, February 15th. The government had intended to present the law during the Spanish European Union presidency in the first half of this year, but may only do so later in the year, the sources said.

The current 2006 legislation bans smoking at work and in public places such as hospitals, schools or shopping centres. Bars or restaurants measuring less than 100 square metres, however, may allow smoking. Bigger venues must have separate smoking areas if they allow smoking.

In practice, only around 40,000 of Spain's more than 350,000 leisure establishments have created smoking areas or banned smoking. The planned legislation would prohibit smoking in all bars and restaurants.

Health professionals have long urged a total ban, describing smoking as one of Spain's top public health problems that causes more than 50,000 deaths annually.

The government says the ban is necessary because smoking is the biggest killer in Spain, with 50,000 smoking-related deaths annually. Surveys show that about 30% of Spaniards smoke. A government-sponsored opinion poll released in December showed more than 70% of respondents backed the ban. (Smoking curbs: The global picture, 7/1/2009)

But bar and restaurant owners vehemently oppose the ban, saying it could force the closure of 70,000 establishments and kill 200,000 jobs. The opposition conservatives said they disapproved of "coercion" and favoured softer measures such as educating the population and financing treatments to help people quit smoking.

Reference: Spain postpones anti-smoking ban in search of consensus,Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) Germany national news,, 2/15/2010.

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