A proper smoking ban has finally been introduced in Spain and you now can’t smoke in any enclosed spaces in the country. This replaces the smoking ban introduced a few years back where you could smoke in a local over 83.4 m2 if it had an open window in the west corner which was south facing with views of the terrace next to the toilet but only on the third Thursday of the month in a properly conditioned area. Now you just can’t. No, no, no.
I say now, cause I´m writing this on the 12th of January and not on the 1st. Cause on the 1st you kinda could smoke, just in case you lit up on the 31st and the cigarette was still lit after the bells. Then maybe you could smoke a bit in the 2nd then a bit less on the 3rd at a push, but now no, no, no.
The previous smoking law allowed smoking in properly conditions areas separated from the non smoking areas of the restaurant/bar/pub. You must be delighted if you are a bar or restaurant owner who spent large sums of money on upgrading your establishment to comply with the new smoking laws only for the government to give up 6 years later and just ban it outright.
Except…there are bars resisting. They’re even advertising the fact that they are defying the ban, with big notices at the door permitting smoking. And they are getting great coverage on all national TV stations. In the short term this must bring them in some good business, but you have to think that in the long term it´s not such a great idea to broadcast the fact that your business is involved in illegal activity on national telly. Especially with fines of up to 600,000€ being threatened.
There is a sense of desperate futility about much of the resistance. In interviews they seem ready to take on the establishment, to defy this unjust law that oppresses the rights of the people. Their bravura is infectious, I´m almost ready to sign their petitions and stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Even to drop some coins in their tip jars, now labeled “Just In Case We Have to Pay the Fine”. I can imagine the government inspectors being forced away from these locals by an impenetrable wall of smoke. Unable to get enough visibility through the grey cloud to identify the name of the bar and address in order to send the fine, they will simply give up, walk away and never return. Hoorah! Power to the smokers. Yeah right.
The news programmes have been desperate to pick up on any story related to the change in the law. On the 2nd of January they interviewed a bar owner who had been forced to lay off staff because of the effect the new law had had on his business. You have to wonder how much money he was making a day in order to warrant this sacking after only 24 hours. Or maybe he was just an opportunist who thought he´d get some free advertising by sacking an employee, blaming it on the smoking ban and calling Telecinco. He got his coverage. As have many similar scoundrels.
There have been wonderful stories all week about how bars are adapting to or defying the new law. A group of half a dozen restaurateurs and bar owners in Valencia have got together and announced that they will each take it in turns to sack an employee over the coming weeks unless the government rescinds the law. They´re hoping half the other 300,000 establishments in the area do the same as revenge against the government. If that doesn´t work maybe they´ll start taking clients hostage and force them to breathe smoke until they get their way.
The clients of another bar have started taking their cigarette break outside en masse. Once there they walk back and forth across the zebra crossing immediately outside the door paralyzing traffic for three minutes. At least they get a bit of exercise. See new law working already, even those who don’t give up are healthier.
There was the obligatory story about a guy who got thumped cause he asked some guy to put out a cigarette and had to get stitches. There was a story about a bar that refused to put its cigarette vending machine inside the door instead of outside. Or was it outside the door instead of inside. I forget. There even a story about a bar serving up tripe tapas in ashtrays. They had about 1,000 spare ashtrays and didn’t know what to do with them. At least they are being inventive.
So the most interesting consequences of the smoking ban in Spain have been one guy with a dozen stitches, half a dozen pensioners eating tripe out of an ashtray, people walking back and forth across a zebra crossing and a bar which has to put its cigarette vending machine outside (or inside). One wonders why PSOE were so concerned to do it in the first place.
If there is anywhere that will benefit from this smoking ban, surely Donostia is that place. A bar filled with smoke was never particularly conducive to the preservation of plates of pintxos on bar tops. Additionally, bars here tend to be quite small making the concentration of smoke more oppressive than in larger establishments. I think even smokers would agree that eating and smoking don’t go together well. You don’t tend to light up mid meal and have puffs between mouthfuls of food in the same way you may swig a wine. And the problem is that that lovely smoke you’re enjoying immediately after your meal, is wafting directly into the nostrils of someone who has just started.
So, Sr Zapatero, even though you botched the first law, thanks, gracias and eskerrik asko from all the pintxos, bollos and banderillas in Donostia. Award yourself a fag for a good job done. In the privacy of the moncloa, obviously.