Smoking in public continues to be a hot topic in most European countries. It seems governments are finding it difficult to work out how far to go/ not to go when it comes to the whole smoking issue. Matters have perhaps been complicated by the increasing popularity of the e-cigarette.
The e-cigarette was seen by some as a means of maintaining a habit but without the associated side effects for those around them. However, e-cigarettes continue to have a mixed reception. Although they are smell and smoke free they still usually contain nicotine and as such there is concern that their presence in public places will continue to encourage smoking habits, particularly amongst the young.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of taking up the e-cigarette habit, in Spain new laws have just been announced that will have an impact on those using the e-cigarette alternative.
New legislation in Spain
The new legislation was published in the Official State bulletin under a Consumer Defence Law. It includes a prohibition on e-cigarette smoking in Spain in:
* Health centres and schools
* In or near children’s play areas
* Public buildings such as council offices, libraries and community centres
* Public transport – including airlines
In other words, e-cigarettes are now banned in the majority of places that traditional cigarettes are banned except for privately owned bars and restaurants.
The fines are pretty steep too. First offenders will be fined 30€ and repeat offenders 600€. There is also a responsibility on employers to ensure that those using their premises comply with the new laws. Private restaurants and bars that decide to ban e-cigarettes will need to advertise this on their premises.
Reasons for the ban
It isn’t clear exactly why they are being banned and what exactly to do about them seems to be causing a great deal of debate amongst politicians across Europe. They don’t appear to carry any of the unsociable side effects on those around you that ordinary cigarettes do. The long-term impact on health of those using them is yet unclear but this is perhaps little different from our understanding of the long-term impact of many aspects of modern life. The only real explanation for the ban can be that they still promote the concept of smoking.
The overall impact of the smoking ban has always been less in Spain than in colder and more inclement countries. Most of the year sitting outside is a pleasure rather than a nuisance and most bars have been ‘creative’ in the way they have provided some level of shelter during the winter months.
Those people who like to dine outside bars and restaurants would probably appreciate a greater uptake of e-cigarettes as being preferable to the cloud that often now hangs around outside dining areas. As with most laws designed to curb human behaviour, we should never under estimate human resourcefulness and the ability to find ways around what the authorities would have us do or not do.