Ten years after the last tobacco law and cornering tobacco indoors, now it’s time to put up barriers outdoors as well. The Ministry of Health has begun to distribute among scientific societies and citizen organizations its new strategy to combat smoking, which includes measures to restrict consumption in outdoor spaces and, for the first time, in the private vehicle. Sanidad does not want you to smoke in cars or outdoors with sensitive environments such as children’s play areas. The new strategy does not specify in which spaces smoking would be prohibited, although anti-smoking associations have been requesting for years to regulate consumption in bar terraces, football stadiums and other outdoor sports venues and even on beaches or pools.
The document that Health has designed is limited to explaining that the new measures will allow progress in the “creation of more smoke-free places outdoors” so that “Spain will once again be a pioneer as it was in the 2010 law”, when it was deleted tobacco from the hotel industry.
The impulse to the fight against tobacco has been delayed due to the emergence of Covid. The plan consists of five goals and 21 objectives to be developed in the next four years and includes, among other star measures, raising the price of tobacco in all its forms (packs, sting and electronic cigarettes) or the generic packaging of packs via taxes. . Prevention measures and help for those who want to quit this bad habit are also included. But unlike her predecessors in office, this time the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has preferred to direct her fight against tobacco with a health strategy instead of writing a law, at least for now. If a law is not drafted, it could remain on “wet paper”, warns Francisco Lozano, president of the European Network for the Prevention of Smoking.
In the same vein, Esteve Fernández, director of the Tobacco Control Unit of the Catalan Institute of Oncology, a collaborating center of the World Health Organization, speaks. «The plan of the Ministry of Health has everything, but it lacks concreteness. Where does the money come from to improve prevention among children and young people? How do we strengthen primary care to help those who want to quit their addiction? Or how do we get the involvement of all the ministries? Health cannot make the decision to raise the price of tobacco without the support of other ministries; we need a law for the measures to be effective and enforce», Claims Fernández. These are the main measures proposed by the Health strategy.
Most expensive tobacco in all its forms
The Health plan raises the rise in the price of tobacco and its derivatives, via taxes, as one of the most effective measures to reduce consumption and prevent young people from starting the habit. It raises an increase not only in traditional packs, but also in rolling tobacco and also in new e-cigarettes, electronic devices that heat tobacco. Spain is still the ‘tobacconist of Europe’ and maintains one of the lowest prices. Although taxes represent a very high percentage of the final price, they are not yet close to the cost of other neighboring countries. Esteve Fernández gives the United Kingdom or France as an example, where a pack of 20 cigarettes costs about 10 euros, compared to 4-5 euros it costs in our country. “In Spain we should copy France with a gradual rise in price until we achieve a price that discourages consumption.”
Generic unbranded packaging
It is another of the strategy’s stakes, claimed for years by anti-tobacco organizations. The generic packaging of tobacco wants to avoid that the packages are a visual appeal for young people, so that the packs are indistinguishable from each other, except for a small reading where the brand and the name of the manufacturer are read. “We know that it has worked in England, in France, Ireland … and there are other countries that are going to adopt it, such as Slovakia,” recalls Francisco Lozano.
Goodbye to the smoke in private cars
For the first time, it is proposed to prohibit the consumption of tobacco inside private cars. The previous law did it in public or industrial vehicles: neither taxis, nor VTC, nor buses, nor trucks. But in practice, a driver when traveling alone in the vehicle can smoke if there is no public inside. Now it goes further. It is not regulated for the protection of third parties or because it can harm children or pregnant women who go inside, the objective is not to smoke in a vehicle because it is known that there are polluting particles of tobacco that remain in cars. Another reason is that lighting a cigarette can also be a source of distraction behind the wheel.
Can you smoke on the beach? And on the terrace of a bar?
It is not clear how the strategy is written. But in the spotlight are the terraces of bars and restaurants, football stadiums or sports venues and environments where there are children or there is no safety distance. The Covid pandemic has been a good experience to understand. Some communities, such as Navarra, have already banned smoking on terraces due to covid and the fear of spreading by aerosols. The Basque Country does not allow smoking in football stadiums either.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism