Smoking Ban: Spain Takes Its Last Puff Indoors

First, Happy New Year, World! Today we find ourself riding through the mysterious date 1-1-11. I’m sure that means something to someone somewhere.

Second, “smoke ’em if you got ’em” because, starting tomorrow, a Spain-wide smoking ban goes into effect for all indoor establishments including bars, restaurants, discotheques, and party rooms. And it doesn’t stop there! Outdoor accesses to schools and hospitals will be smoke-free as well. Thank goodness they’re letting prisoners & psychiatric patients smoke in their respective places of “activity“.

Outdoor areas such as terraces/terrazas, stadiums, and bull rings will still be smoky, however, but give those poor nicotine addicts SOMEPLACE to blacken their lungs!

Have we no respect for those whom can’t control themselves? Shouldn’t we take pity on them? Should we treat them instead of make their activities illegal? Don’t smokers have rights too? Can’t we all just get long?? Shouldn’t we allow smokers their bars and non-smokers their bars too? Oh, wait, we tried that in the last smoking-ban go-around a few years ago, and, well, it didn’t “go around” too well. Frankly, it flopped. Then, they offered bars the option to be smoke-free or allow smoking. Guess what: nearly all chose a smoke option. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Many smokers say that nothing goes better with a coffee or a caña than a good cigarette. I guess I believe them as I, a non-smoker, have no reason to doubt them. Personally, I liked the way it was before. Spain wasn’t all that smoky. Oh, sure, you had some bars where, by chance, the majority of the patrons were smokers and the easily-bothered-non-smokers would leave in a huff to avoid the puff, seeking cleaner-air establishments. It was a hit and miss thing when it came to the smoke-density of any given bar.

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” And if you stay out of the kitchen, you can always go to the sitting room where it may be cooler. The same with bars, if one is smoky, finding a “cleaner” one isn’t all that difficult.

I’m not a smoker and never have been so I don’t have that monkey on my back. THANK GOODNESS! But being next to someone who’s smoking doesn’t bother me much. It’s no fun having them turn and accidentally blow smoke in your face or nearly get burned by the red-hot ashes of someone who’s talking in one direction and holding “the smoking gun” in the opposite direction.  Smoke generally rises above plate-level so when I’m seated in a restaurant I’m (probably) not eating tobacco particulates. Everyone’s been around one of these anti-smoking fascists (there, I said it) when the first sign of a smoker sends them into exaggerated-coughing-fits to supposedly give the selfish “the hint”. Please! Leave the quiet smoker alone and stop your annoying coughing, already! Sheesh!

Now I feel so assimilated into the smoking culture of Spain that I really don’t notice all that much anymore. And tomorrow I probably won’t even notice the lack of smoke – at first. Since my first visit in 1995, smoking seemed to give Spain part of its rich character. They seemed to be a rebel population and for that I admired them even more from my “Don’t Do This” and “Don’t Do That” American perspective. Thank goodness with all of these US restrictions we can still claim to be “The Land of the Free“. Don’t get me started…

Will smokers simply quit smoking because they can’t have a beer or a wonderful coffee at their favorite bars? Not bloody likely, but I hope they can quit. It’s not healthy, don’tcha know. Why would anyone voluntarily inhale any foreign matter into an organ as sensitive as the human lung? It totally escapes me. Secondary smoke isn’t healthy either, I get that, but secondary smoke is only a small fraction as dangerous as the super-heated firsthand smoke drawn through a cigarette. (okay, throw me your statistics in the comments section below, please. I KNOW they’re coming…)

This whole smoking ban could have not only grave social consequence but economic consequences as well. Let me explain…

Smokers love bars and cafés. Heck, we ALL love them. It may come to pass that smokers will be so ticked off they’ll simply stop patronizing these establishments, sending the entire industry into a tailspin – and this in times of worldwide economic crisis. Then comes the panic on behalf of the owners. They’ll start thinking how they can recover this lost income. “I guess we’ll just have to raise the price of a cup of coffee and a caña to make up the difference.” And the higher the prices go, the fewer people will patronize them.

OR/AND, they’ll enlarge/create terrace/terraza space to accommodate those in exhile. If you’re a non-smoker and wanting to relax with some summertime drinks in the “fresh air” you might find the “fresh air” to be less “fresh” as you’ll be surrounded by smokers! And imagine the wait-times to snag one of those terrace tables! And you though things were bad now! Ha! Lines will be long(ER!!). It might turn out that non-smokers will be forced to have their drinks INDOORS 365 days a year – which totally goes against the whole Spanish need to be “outdoors”. And terraces won’t close in the winter, either, no way! Bars will set out those gawd-awful greenhouse gas-emitting patio heaters, further destroying our environment – and the rabid anti-smoker will say, “GREAT! Let them destroy the environment OUTSIDE. At least my air will be fresh INDOORS.” Yup. That’s a self-less ecological solution. (tongue-in-cheek)

Recently, a few “members only Smoking clubs” have opened up. This might be the wave of the future, folks. Members pay an annual fee and with this they – and only they – can enter these particular clubs, smoking to their black-lung’s content. And they must be non-profit. “What? A non-profit club? How would that work??” Members would pay an annual fee and with that the establishment can make money/profit – but not by the sale of drinks, food, or products.

Establishment owners caught NOT adhering to or not enforcing the smoking ban will be met with STIFF fines between 601 and 10,000 Euros. The government has teams of inspectors to start working tomorrow and you can be sure we’ll be getting an ear-full from not only the bar owners but also patrons from both sides of the aisle. It’ll be interesting how the ban evolves but the government is holding firm this time around; NO EXCEPTIONS for indoor public spaces whatsoever.

So how can Spain retain its Spanish flavor without cigarette or cigar smoke? It’ll be tough, I say. Sure, we’ll be healthier and there’s little else more valuable than that. But this price may be steep. The trickle-down affects may profoundly change the entire Spanish culture as we know it – and I’m not so sure I’m ready to let go of that just yet. Video below: Smoking ban in Spain to take effect (1:25). A ban on smoking in public places will take effect in Spain in the New Year.

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9 Responses to Smoking Ban: Spain Takes Its Last Puff Indoors

  1. Wendy aka Puna says:

    Ole & Bravo! You don’t feel strongly about this, do you? 🙂 I completely agree with your thinking – it’s up to the individual and after nearly 50 years of research and various & sundry proclamations, everyone knows smoking isn’t good for you. But – it is still an individual choice and yes, the cafe and bar owners are going to fill the sidewalks with tables and terrazas are going to be packed sun, rain, hot and cold not withstanding. BTW – Loved your comment about the mini-space heaters polluting the air – so very true. It’ll be interesting to watch ….

    • MadridMan says:

      I do feel pretty strongly about the smoking ban. Maybe I’d feel less strongly if I didn’t constantly hear the complaints from the smokers I know.

      As for the gas patio heaters, I dislike them almost as much as I dislike the summertime water-mist-sprayers they have in the same terrazas with the intention of cooling-off patrons. What a waste of water – not to mention no one likes water-speckled spectacles.

      • azahar says:

        Aack! I hate those stupid water spritzers – the idea of water from possibly dirty pipes spraying all over my food…

        Same with smoke. Hate smoke blowing all over my food, and all over me. When I used to smoke I only did so at home or outside, and it was hardly a massive hardship.

        Really, all that smokers are being made to do now is be responsible for their habit so that it doesn’t affect others. I don’t see the problem. In fact I don’t actually understand why they were ever allowed their “rights” in the first place.

  2. Wendy aka Puna says:

    LOL! You are feeling extraordinarily witty today. The outdoor sprinklers are a miserable pain – waste water and do absolutely no good except make your mascara run – for the females of course. It’s sort of like going to the market and having to shake off vegies before bagging them!

  3. Cascade DuSel says:

    I totally agree… I am a adamant non smoker… but to me it is a part of Spain … on of the first smells I smell stepping off the plane each time I visit and I wouldnt change that for anything.

  4. teachertraveler8 says:

    I think I understand your perspective on this. Well-written. Like you, I don’t mind the smoke in Spain. Normally, I hate the smell of smoke and I lost my father to emphysema. However, to me, part of the appeal of Spain is the smoke. When I returned home from my trip in ’09, the scent of smoke was on my jacket for months. Everytime I put it on, I was instantly transported to my little village in Granada. It is an expensive and unhealthy habit. Hopefully the ban will lead people to quit, but there do seem to be other factors to consider.

  5. Leah says:

    Well-written take on the smoking ban! So interesting to know how different places are receiving this ban and how individual opinions differ. I must say that in Pamplona sometimes the smoke in the bars was overwhelming for me as I am a non-smoker and an asthmatic. Naturally, I’m quite content with the ban. I enjoy coming home from a night out not smelling of smoke and being able to breathe easily. However, I do agree with those above and with you that smoking is quintessential to the Spanish culture experience. It was one of the first things that I noticed at the beginning of my time here in Spain. It is (was?) definitely an integral part of the Spanish life. I have a feeling that the Spanish, as strong and tenacious as they are, will find a way to continue living their unique way in spite of the ban.

  6. Tumbit says:

    And yet only yesterday the Spanish Treasury announced that Tobacco sales for January had fallen by 32% compared to December. A Victim of their own success ? – I wonder how long it will be until they stop congratulating themselves and realise how much taxable revenue they have lost here – only to panic and pile a tax increase on something else instead ?

    • MadridMan says:

      Good point but I’d imagine they knew they’d lose A LOT of money. Maybe, as you said, they thought they’d make it up in, oh, maybe more speeding tickets issued by the recent lowering of the national speed limit? Or, maybe they really are trying to become more “green”. But asking Spaniards to drive slower is like asking them to smoke less. The January drop in tobacco sales, I’m guessing, is mainly due to a short-term New Year’s Resolution. That number will likely go back up in a month or two – but maybe not to where it was before. Some will undoubtedly quit – for their own good. More power to them.

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