Like many other European countries, Spain now also has its own version of the anti smoking law, which is generally said to be one of the strictest ones in Europe. With the new law, smoking is not only prohibited in public places such as bars, restaurants, hospitals and schools, but also in children’s play parks and other public areas in open air.
Spain and the cigarette
Spain has, even more so than other countries, a somewhat amibiguous relationship with the cigarette. Its culture is generally very much based around food and a lot of a Spaniard’s social life takes place in bars and restaurants where most Spanish people tend to socialize with a cigarette or two. On the other hand, Spain is also an extremely child friendly country where you will never see a sign on a restaurant’s door saying that children are not welcome. Spanish families tend to take their children with them everywhere, including to a family dinner in a restaurant that doesn’t finish till 1.00 o’clock in the morning. (It takes a long time getting used to the sight of 6 year olds running around the restaurants’ gardens till well past bedtime…). This naturally means that children were, until recently with the new law, still very much exposed to polluted air in bars and restaurants.
Spain has always been a country with one of the highest relative number of smokers, especially amongst women and the cigarette plays an essential role in a Spaniard’s social life. A law introduced in 2006 gave bars and restaurants the option to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be a smoking or non-smoking establishment. Several bars declared themselves to be non-smoking, but quickly changed back to allowing smoking again after they noticed their numbers had gone down.
succes or failure?
It is to be seen how much bars in Spain will be affected by the new law and how much of the resistance felt by some bar owners will result in public demonstrations and other manifestations such as ignoring the law and allowing people to smoke again. Whereas in most countries the change-over from smoking to non-smoking bars has been relatively smoothly, Spain might see a bumpier change-over since the cigarette is so much part of people’s private and social life. It might even end up getting out of hand like it has in the Netherlands, where in as many as 51% of the bars and discos, people have started to smoke again. The question is whether or not Spain will finally accept that their cigarette friendly culture doesn’t go well with their family orientated and child friendly culture.