Defiant Spanish smokers facing 100,000 euro penalty

3 Jan

D-Day has come and gone – but how much better off is Spain now that bars and restaurants will no longer be polluted by smoke? Assuming that Spanish tobacco addicts choose to honour the new legislation, that is.

I’m in the UK at present, but I gather from friends and Spanish internet forums that the general public seem to be accepting the changes reasonably amicably.

Breaching the new law will initially cost smokers a 30-euro fine, but bar owners face a 600-euro penalty for a first offence, soaring to a potential 100,000 euros if they repeatedly ignore the legislation.

Smokers caught several times could also face a six-figure fine. But if  my good friend Graham Lilley’s Day One experience counts for anything, few expats will risk  the wrath of the enforcement boys.

Graham, who runs the popular Ricardo’s bar in El Raso, near Guardamar, told me: ”I didn’t need to remind my customers. They all came in telling me smoking is no longer legal and insisting they sit outside!”

Graham, an asthmatic, reluctantly decided against a smoking ban inside Ricardo’s last year because he feared he would lose more customers than they gained. Now he says: ”I’m happy the decision has been taken out of my hands but I hope it’s not the thin end of the wedge. No flambe dishes, no smoked salmon – and what about the mosquito candles?!”

Graham Lilley - happy with ban

Meanwhile, some Spanish bar proprietors seemed to be testing the water to see if the government really mean business. A friend in the Costa Del Sol reported hours after the new legislation took effect: ” I just went past our local bar in Benalmadena and only two men were sitting in there. One was smoking, as was the barman/owner with him!’’

That’s 630 euros the government missed out on for starters – unless the police walked in afterwards and chose not to join the fumadores.

A Javier-based member of one expat forum reported: ‘’ Not an ashtray in sight in our local. Lots of smokers enjoying the sun outside, though. I guess the real test will come when it rains…’’

Another revealed: ”Driving back from Torremolinos this morning my wife and I popped into a bar/cafe in Velez Malaga. Signs everywhere – Prohibido Fumar. A young guy came in and lit up. The staff told him to go outside!’’

And from the colder northern climes of Bilbao came the revelation: ‘”The major bars on the street where I live have put a table outside with an ashtray. People seem to be respecting the law up here, which I’m thankful for.

‘’There’s a LOT of anger – we were giving the smokers in the family a hard time yesterday at the family dinner and an uncle was saying he’ll no longer go to the bar. However, I doubt this because the daily coffee is a good excuse to leave the house.

‘’People will stay home more? This week, sure, people are going to be stubborn. Next week too. Week three? People will miss their coffee. Week four… we’ll see.’’

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether there will in fact be ANY real change. Unlike Britain, the winter weather in Spain does not freeze everyone virtually to death so it won’t involve any great hardship for smokers to indulge their unsociable habit outside on a partly-covered terrace.

And once the temperature warms up, it will be back to the old routine. Everyone will make for the terrace, the smokers will light up – and sanctimonious battle-axes like me, too hot to go inside and avoid the fumes, will carry on moaning.

PS. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cool reaction of smokers to the flak I’ve been flinging at them this past couple of days. I fully expected an angry backlash over all the mickey-taking, particularly my recommendation that they try the balcony option (click here). All I can think is that perhaps the new anti-smoking laws in Spain fitted in nicely with everyone’s New Year’s Resolution.

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6 Responses to “Defiant Spanish smokers facing 100,000 euro penalty”

  1. gus-lopez January 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    I’ve just been in to town & some of them you can smell the cigar smoke ouside ! The bar I usually frequent , which normally between 10 -11am you’ve trouble getting served is empty ! 3 people in total in 1hour ! Even the signs on the door prohibiting smoking have a message on them telling the customers that they don’t want it & it’s been forced on them & not to abandon going there !

  2. Hayley beckman January 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I agree with all your comments Donna .Looking forward to my next visit to smoke free Spain and a smoke free Ricardos. Make me a promise that now that theres no smoking and everyone is outside …that u wont still be moaning when your sat outside yourself!!!! xxx

  3. Morerosado January 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Morerosado said:
    03 January 2011 @ 12:54

    Hi Donna
    My husband & I own property on the same urb as you do & we sometimes eat Sunday lunch at Ricardo’s. It’s very good for only 3.95€ for a large plateful of hot food. We ate inside a couple of Sundays ago, it was too cold to eat in the plastic awning, though some chose to. They only have five tables inside, don’t they? There were people sitting at the bar & standing around the bar area smoking around their kiddy sat on a bar stool, plus there were others smoking inbetween eating…ugh. We stayed long enough to eat then left, it served a purpose!

    We are so glad smoking has been banned, it’s going to be soooo pleasant for us now.

  4. Kieran January 4, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Bad idea in the current economic climate unless you want many bars and clubs to close like they have done in the UK. You lose more business than you win by being smokefree. Now personally I preferred my restaurants smoke free but smokers in bars and discos didn’t really bother me. It’s having to go outside with the smoking girlfriend I find a chore It’s a shame that some sort of compromise was not opted.View the daily closures of bars and nightclubs (especially those with no outside areas). Dont know why you cant give smokers a smoking room in places with multiple rooms or areas. Its not as if there’ll be any non smokers in it to complain and it’ll stop the hoards of smokers you see outside. I can see a great many bars closing in Malaga all the way down to Marbella because of a ban few want. Personally I stick with my Irish bar in La cala. Smokers are so well catered for outside that this place is well geared up for no smoking inside so everyones happy – but many places aren’t so lucky. I.e those in Malaga town centre basements

  5. Leighton January 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Hi, Many people in my town in Wales thought that the local pub would lose business, including the landlord. Wales introdeuced the ban before England. The pub has actually seen business increase as many people, including myself go there more frequently, as we do not now fear having smelly clothes after a visit. The restaurant part is very busy. The only problem I see in Spain, as has already been mentioned is I probably will not be able to eat outside in the summer as the smokers will be puffing away over my food.

  6. Steve January 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    hi Donna. I am near Marbella. At dinner last night a couple lit up and refused to comply saying bar owner told them it was OK. Owner said Oh it’s legal as we are not in pub but in ‘awning’ but a permanently fully enclosed awning. Our group told him he was wrong and it was clearly obvious that he felt he was between rock and hard place. The couple finally went out after owner had word. Then today my wife and I were going to drop into bar in Elviria and we turned around because there were at least 6/8 people in 3 groups puffing away. There will be lots of challenges over what constitutes ‘fuera’

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