Smoking Ban Hits Spain
Arriving back in Spain from our Christmas hols a bit later than most, the Barcelona Life team took a week or two before refamiliarising themselves with the city's excellent restaurants and bars... and when they did they didn't in fact seem that familiar.
What was this strange atmosphere one could detect? This lightness, this curious freshness, this transparency of the air. Why were all these people continuously giving up their seats (thanks by the way) to go outside, only to come back again two minutes later?
It was of course the repercussions of Spain's smoking ban, which came into effect on 2nd January 2011 (allowing a one day respite for those still celebrating New Year's Eve for most of the morning of the 1st). In fact this is Spain's second smoking ban, although the previous one, which came into force in 2006, was largely ineffective. It gave every bar, cafe and restaurant a chance to declare itself a non-smoking or smoker-friendly place, and in this tobacco addicted country everyone simply opted for the latter and a nation of smokers carried on happily puffing away.
The 2011 smoking ban is much tougher and as well as forbidding lighting up in any public places such as bars, restaurants, clubs, airports and train stations, the new law also forbids smoking in enclosed spaces, parks, hospital doorways and in and around schools and school playgrounds (sorry kids!). So far, despite the odd grumble and one or two punch ups, the ban is being successfully enforced... much to the chagrin of many Spaniards, who see this as one of their civil liberties being taken away (drinking on the street is already banned, whilst bullfighting remains threatened, as do the much loved chiringuitos - or beach bars - that pop up on so many of the country's beaches).
Overall, with 50,000 dying in Spain every year from smoking-related deaths, you have to say the ban is a good thing... even if Spain seems a little less Spanish in 2011 already.