take it to the streets, smokers

I recently received an email from a fellow Spain aficionado who follows this blog and she posed a question that made me laugh out loud: “I heard that smoking is now banned in all of Spain!  I don’t believe this, not even for a second.

You really do have to see it to believe it. Europe has such a gigantic smoking community, it is hard to picture a dark café sans smoke here on the continent. Farewell atmosphere, hello .. health?

I will preface this entry with the following:
1) I’m not a smoker
2) I don’t like smoke

Something that slipped my mind entirely before arriving in Europe was the fact that unlike it’s western counterpart – millions of people here continue smoking. It’s as if no one got the memo about that whole cancer situation .. the idea simply never crossed the pond. You can still witness people of all ages smoking cigarettes, but now, as noted earlier – they are banished to the great outdoors.

Yes, the cigarette cartons still scream FUMAR PUEDE MATAR, but Spaniards read this about us much as Americans read theirs. Similar to some older Americans I know, there seems to be a staunch belief that once you reach a “certain age” there really is no point in quitting. Fine. But when I go to school and my fourteen year olds are puffing away outside the door? Not fine. But if I may vent my spleen, the worst scene for me involves women smoking near their children. As you know it is common to go out for tapas and for dinner, rather than stay home. Many times people will go out with their families – children, babies in strollers, the whole family out to a bar. Good for you, support the local establishment, BUT the proximity of some strollers to nicotine is disgusting. Que asco. The rest of us don’t care if you smoke but for the love of god, step away from your child if you’re going to continue.

Spain attempted to introduce a law banning indoor smoking in the year 2010. Attempted? Yes, attempted. When you ask Spaniards what happened they say “well no one did it.” Really? Because when most countries make a law, it’s usually … a law? Like, people obey it or there are fierce consequences. Not so in nonchalant Spain, apparently. So this year on the second day of the new year, so as not to mess with the citizens New Year’s celebrations, Spain instituted the ban once again. This time, for whatever reason – it seems to have stuck. Menos mal (thank god). Never have I been so excited to see something put into action. A la calle, fumadores! Vete pa’ ya’!

Well. Let’s not get too excited. There are still some places that permit smoking, for one reason or another. I don’t think it has anything to do with the amount of liquor you sell (as in restaurants in Pennsylvania, where if your liquor sales outweigh your food sales, you can continue smoking indoors). I think here it is ultimately the decision of the owner. But in the majority of locations (95%) – they have taken to the law with gusto, plastering no smoking stickers on the doors and windows as if to announce their superiority here in the year of our smoke-free lord, 2011. In reality I think this was a decision made for tourists, and the hell with the health of the people. Let’s be honest, how does Spain make its money? Tourists and olive oil. The Western world has made a dent in various states as far as indoor smoking is concerned, and the idea (at least) has made its way to Spain, as well as several other European countries.

Nonetheless, the smoking continues – indoors and out. In my hyper social neighborhood, you are likely to see the streets full of people young and old alike, at any hour of the day. Siesta be damned, Sundays too. Triana is a place to socialize, to see and be seen. So when you see the crowds outside the doors, you shouldn’t be surprised. But now that the weather has turned toward the summer, everyone is outdoors. This includes the smokers. Which is to say, 90% of the clientele. So if I want to sit outside and enjoy a tinto on the terrace, I need to note the direction the wind is blowing, or go home and sit on my own porch. Why haven’t the Spaniards caught on? I think smoking is still very much in vogue here – it’s sexy and all the cool kids are doing it, so you should too.

So yes, the law has caught on but don’t hold your breath…. literally. Thanks to Chris Leadbeater for this article earlier this year on his Travel Mail Blog.


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