Spanish bars quick in adapting to smoking ban (Feature)
By Sinikka Tarvainen and Joerg Vogelsaenger Jan 3, 2011, 14:02 GMT
Madrid - Spanish bars and restaurants were quick in adapting to a smoking ban which entered into force on Sunday, bar employees, clients and media reports said Monday.
'This is wonderful, because I now breathe easier and my eyes no longer become watery' from smoke, a Madrid waitress named Cristina, 31, told the German Press Agency dpa.
The Spanish parliament toughened the country's anti-smoking legislation in late December, putting Spain in line with the strictest anti-smoking countries in Europe.
The law banned smoking in bars, restaurants and discotheques, as well as in outdoor public areas such as playgrounds, schoolyards or hospital entrances.
A 2006 law had already prohibited smoking at workplaces, schools, hospitals, shopping centres or railway stations.
The new law entered into force on January 2 in order not to spoil New Year celebrations on January 1.
At midnight, waiters told smoking clients to extinguish their cigarettes or to go outside to light up. Many establishments had put up signs asking their clients to help them apply the law, and removed ashtrays to make it easier for them to comply.
Some establishments took measures to help smokers cope with the cold weather outside. Outdoor terraces, where smoking is allowed, were equipped with heaters. Some establishments even distributed blankets to their clients.
The overwhelming majority of clients reacted with understanding. Some replaced their cigarettes with lollipops, praising the new law as an opportunity for them to quit smoking.
Others, however, complained about the law treating smokers like 'criminals.'
'Our government has exaggerated, like always,' said a young woman smoking on the street outside a Madrid bar.
Society now had so many rules that 'soon they will not even allow us to live any more,' a cigar fan named Antonio complained at a Barcelona bar terrace.
The law initially faced strong opposition from bar and restaurant owners fearing it would make them lose large numbers of clients.
Cristina, however, said the number of clients had not gone down significantly in her bar. 'We have even received some new clients, who come because they no longer need to suffer from smoke,' she observed.
The law was being applied 'normally,' Health Minister Leire Pajin said.
However, the law was being broken at some hospital entrances where people continues smoking. The consumers' organization Facua received hundreds of complaints from people reporting violations of the smoking ban on a website set up for the purpose.
Smoking kills more than 50,000 people in Spain annually, including up to 5,000 passive smokers, such as waiters inhaling smoke.
Those violating the ban can face fines as high as 600,000 euros (800,000 dollars).
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