Smoking banned indoors in Spain? Never! Many people initially felt that Spain was a country that would never introduce or enforce such a ban. They were mistaken. Certainly the introduction in 2011 of a number of strict measures went relatively smoothly.
Smokers have perhaps been helped by Spain’s moderate climate meaning that most of the time it is no hardship to smoke outside, in fact it’s even desirable. There have been some people complaining that outside terraces are now full of smokers at times of the year when these are your most prized positions.
It’s also perhaps true to say that implementation of the laws, in some respects, has been rather lax. Many bars have constructed ‘outside’ covered areas that probably do not comply with the law. These shelters for winter-time smokers have gradually become rooms in their own right meaning that non-smokers now have to fight their way through clouds of smoke to get to the less contaminated inside areas.
Whilst it seems that most bars and clubs have adhered to the letter of the law when it come to smoking inside buildings, when it comes to the capacity and form of these external covered areas, anything seems to go.
This could just be an intermediary stage in the introduction of greater enforcement. Certainly the war against tobacco has not yet been won and various measures continue to be recommended, particularly raising taxes.
The WHO report
The ‘WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2015’ strongly recommends raising taxes to bring down further the number of smokers in a country. Something which they claim many countries have been reluctant to do even though it increases revenues.
WHO recommend that tobacco taxes should be set at 75% of the retail price. However, they note that only 10% of the world’s population live in countries with taxes set at this high rate.
The measures that WHO indicates countries can take include:
- Regulating for smoke-free environments
- Offering cessation programmes
- Putting warning labels on packets
- Advertising bans
- Introducing higher taxation
The WHO report monitors the number of countries implementing tobacco control practice and outlines countries’ performance.
The verdict on Spain
We might feel that Spain is a little lax on its tobacco laws but not according to this WHO report. They categorise Spain as having a history of tobacco control, a factor that means there is more likely to be support for raising tobacco taxes in a country.
One argument that is often raised against increasing taxes is that this is likely to increase illicit trade. However, WHO claim that it is more beneficial to crack down on illicit trade than to avoid raising taxes. Spain is referred to as one country along with Hungary, Italy and Romania where illicit trade in tobacco products can be reduced.
The report compliments Spain on its ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Spain is included in the WHO’s list as one of only 29 countries who have done this. However, smoking in Spain is still relatively prevalent with 26% of adults being identified as smoking on a daily basis in 2013. This is in comparison to 20% in the UK and 12% in Sweden.
The price of cigarettes in Spain at around €4.95 might be low in comparison to the UK (€7.52) but is quite high in relation to some other European countries. One of the highest costs being applied in Ireland where the price of a 20-cigarette pack of the most sold brand comes in at around €9.60.
Whatever WHO say about the importance of tax increases to reduce smoking, there doesn’t seem to be an automatic link between the cost of a packet of cigarettes and the amount of consumption in a country. According to the tables reported, Uzbekistan has the lowest level of adult consumption at 10% and also one of the lowest costs of a packet of its most sold brand.
Many factors must contribute to a country’s smoking statistics. The weather, the main religion in the country as well as aspects of tradition and culture. We have yet to see, if Spain tightens its laws further, if this will really dent the continued popularity of cigarette smoking.