Saturday, January 29, 2011

The smoke clears

After several years of having a half-baked and ill-enforced smoking ban (which basically exempted 90% of the cafes and bars in Spain) the real thing came into force this month and Spanish public premises are all now supposed to be smoke free.

For all the complaints from bar owners worried about a loss of business and predictions of economic ruin, it was an inevitable move. It's only a few years since the UK got its ban but a reversal back to the old, smoky ways is unthinkable. I am sure that in Spain too it will seem incredible within a couple of years that it was once acceptable to make non smoking customers sit wreathed in the second hand smoke of others. But ...

It appears Spain's conversion to a smoke free environment is not happening without a fight. It's partly down to the economy (a fear that bars and cafes will lose business and an important sector will shed jobs and income) but also fairness.

Not so much the old libertarian position that bar owners should be able to set their own rules, passive smoking fears trumped that a long time ago. The real fairness argument links back to the old law. This stated that bars and cafes over 100 square meters had to be smoke free or have a separately closed off area for smokers with extractor fans. Some owners invested considerable sums (35,000€ in this case - Marbella Smoking Rebel) all of which is now wasted. Worse still they may have taken out loans to finance the changes which they will have to pay back from reduced income. The industry is sure that takings will be permanently down because so many Spaniards smoke.

A recent demonstration by hoteliers, cafe owners etc in Palencia featured banners saying things like "If you don't smoke, we don't get paid. Let us live" and "Total ban, sector ruined.".

You can understand the anger. Regardless of whether smoking bans are fair or not, inconsistent and careless law-making is certainly unwelcome.

Latest article from the main site Do I have to do a Spanish tax return?

No comments:

Post a Comment

OctoFinder Blog and ping Spanish Insight - Blogged