Tag Archives: Smoking

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.

Banned in Spain – but smokers’ paradise is just seconds away!

2 Jan

IT’S JANUARY 2, 2011 AND FROM TODAY SMOKING IN PUBLIC PLACES IS BANNED IN SPAIN VERY MUCH ON THE SAME LINES AS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

PERHAPS THE MOST ACCEPTABLE (IF NOT THE SAFEST) PLACE FOR SPANISH-BASED SMOKERS TO GATHER IN FUTURE IS ON BALCONIES LIKE THIS ONE (click on the link). GRAB A CIGGY, POP OUTSIDE, TAKE IN THE VIEW, LIGHT UP – AND YOU’LL BECOME AN EX-SMOKER IN A MATTER OF SECONDS.

IN FACT, THE EXPRESSION ‘TO CRASH THE ASH’ WILL ADOPT A TOTALLY NEW MEANING.

AM I HAPPY THAT I’LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO ENJOY A MEAL AND A DRINK IN SPANISH BARS AND RESTAURANTS WITHOUT BEING SUBJECTED TO CLOUDS OF STINKING TOBACCO? YOU BET I AM!

AND WHILE I REMAIN CYNICAL AS TO WHETHER THE SPANISH PEOPLE WILL ABIDE BY THE NEW LAW,  I’M ALL FOR GIVING IT A GO. IF THE WORST COMES TO THE WORST, WE CAN ALWAYS USHER THEM OUT ONTO THE BALCONY…

Clean air at last – or just another smoke screen?

18 Dec

So smoking is finally going to be banned in Spanish bars and restaurants from January 2. Well, that’s what they say – but after threatening to see sense for years, I’m still not convinced the government won’t renage yet again on enforcing the new legislation.

The ban was supposed to come into force last January, then again in June. Now we are told it is really going to happen in a couple of weeks’ time. But don’t bet on it – and certainly don’t bank on the Spanish people observing it universally.

Spain’s smoking culture is so entrenched that I can see bar owners slipping the police a drink or two to turn a blind eye to the ciggy suckers. However, those expats who prefer to frequent British bars undoubtedly have clearer airwaves ahead – because most of us have wanted a ban for years.

DIFFICULT DECISION: But Jane and Graham Lilley opted not to slap a ban on smoking at Ricardo's

My friends Jane and Graham Lilley spent last winter considering the likely effects if they were to ban smoking inside Ricardo’s, their bar/bistro at El Raso, near Guardamar. Like other bars in the area, they feared it would hit their business – and in the end decided to allow the air-polluters to have their way.

As a confirmed ashtray-basher, I believe a ban would have had the opposite effect, if not immediately then certainly once fervent non-smokers became aware that a fresh-air zone had finally surfaced in the local commercial centre.

Let’s face it, how many people – including cigarette addicts – actually ENJOY eating in a smoky environment?

OK, our Spanish amigos presumably do, but that’s because finding a Spaniard who doesn’t smoke is like  X-Factor producing a  judge who says something original.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the percentage of British adults who smoke dropped from 39% in 1980 to 21% in 2007, when the UK legislation against smoking in public places took effect.

I have always taken the never-ending stories of Spain’s sit-on-the-fence legislators enforcing a blanket smoking ban with a pinch of salt. The existing law is so woolly and ineffective that it might as well not be there – and I also find it difficult to believe that the tobacco-obsessed Spanish will actually observe the full ban.

British fag addicts complain that UK anti-smoking laws are too stringent and I accept that they do have a case of sorts. My philosophy is that if consenting adults wish to impregnate each other’s lungs with a terminal disease in private, that’s their business. Just as long as the rest of us aren’t expected to participate in the suicide attacks on healthy living by inhaling the residue of their habit.

The problem at El Raso has been that the only way non-smokers could escape a coughing fit is to stay away from the bars. Until now, none of the dwindling number of hostelries on the urbanisation (I exclude exclusive restaurants like Stan and Ollies) has had a non-smoking area, even though they all serve food. This means that tobacco addicts have been free to blow their fumes into anyone and everyone’s dinner.

The government ban will make things a lot easier for people like Claire Tyson, who runs Rayz Bar at El Raso. She believes a voluntary no-smoking policy would have decimated her business – particularly in the off season.

‘‘The majority of my customers are smokers,’’ she says, ‘‘and they enjoyed the fact that they didn’t have to abide by the English laws where cigarettes are concerned.

‘‘If we’d banned smoking in the bar before now, they’d have had no problem going outside to smoke in the summer. But if they had to do it in the winter I think they would have just found somewhere else where smoking was allowed.’’

Only once has anyone ever asked me in a bar or restaurant if I had any objection to them smoking – and that was in England so long ago that I can’t even remember where it was. Anyway, I made it pretty clear I would throw my knife and fork out of the cot if the young lady concerned lit up, and immediately felt guilty because she had been courteous enough to ask.

It’s 30 years since I gave up my own 25-a-day habit after listening to an LP by a hypnotist which I took initially as a joke. Before turning in one night, I sat and listened to this guy’s soothing voice telling me to close my eyes and imagine I was sunbathing in an idyllic scenario on a tropical island beach. I was in paradise, he assured me, except for this ‘’horrible, stinking weed’’ in my hand.  ‘’Get it out of your life,’’ he ordered. ‘’Throw it as far as you can and tell yourself you’ll never touch it again as long as you live.’’

I went to bed laughing to myself, with no real intention of giving up. Yet when I got out of bed the next morning, I told myself, ‘‘I’m not going to smoke today’’. And from that moment, the thought of taking even a single drag on a ciggy has revolted me ever increasingly.

Even more bizarrely, a few weeks later my late mother-in-law, who had been a lifelong smoker, listened to the same LP one evening. She never smoked again until the day she died.

So where can we get hold of this record, I hear hordes of would-be ex-smokers asking. The answer is I don’t know. I always thought the hypnotist’s name was Edwin Starr, but since the only Edwin Starr on the internet appears to be the late soul singer, I guess that time has distorted my memory.

If anyone out there can enlighten me  on the hypnotist’s identity, and where they might still hear that LP, then please leave a comment. You could make an awful lot of would-be quitters very happy.

Anyway, back at El Raso Jane and Graham’s decided against a voluntary ban – and subsequently lost me as a regular diner. I won’t eat in a room where people are smoking – or likely to light up. And fortunately there have always been plenty of options.

John Latham and Ken Brewster, who run the classy, Hollywood-themed  Oscars café bar in Ciudad Quesada, certainly have no regrets after going smoke-free when they took over the old Casi Casi premises a couple of  years ago.

‘’We did lose a few people who used to come in just for a drink and a smoke,’’ they told me.

Art least bosses John Latham (left) and Ken Brewster haven't banned me from Oscars!

‘’But that has been more than balanced by a much cleaner atmosphere both for our diners and ourselves. We also have lots of people coming in now who would not have dreamt of eating here when smoking was allowed.’’

It’s easy to see why. With only 20 inside covers for diners, the addition of a row of beer-swilling smokers at the bar could only have a negative effect on the food side of the business.

The compulsory ban, if it does actually come in, will solve a Catch 22 situation. Until now, the choice that hostelry bosses had to make was: Allow smoking and ostracise your non-smoking diners – or ban it and risk losing your regular drinkers?

Hopefully, that decision has now been taken out of everyone’s hands. Along with the nicotine stains.

TOBACCO NOTE: Isn’t it remarkable that the people who smoke the most seem to be those who look as if they can least afford it? But let’s not go there just now – I’ve kicked smokers in the butt enough for now.