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Smoking in Spanish Restaurants Still Allowed Despite New Anti-Tabacco Legislation


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Main points anti-tobacco legislation | Smoke free cafes in Cordoba

Cordoba, Jan 10. On the 1 January, some of Europe 's most restrictive anti-tobacco legislation went into effect in Spain, banning smoking from the workplace and public establishments. Yet for all the fanfare, some 95% of small bars and restaurants are still smoker-friendly, taking the bite out of the severe regulations.

"I just can't make this place a non-smoking establishment, or I'd lose 20% of my clients," says Jose. "They come here for their coffee break and now they're anxious to smoke when they step out of the office. They'd just go somewhere else."

Other local restaurant owners in Cordoba seem to agree, as no-smoking signs are rare. In the center, I have only found one cafe-restaurant which is non-smoking: Siena in Tendillas Square. The required "se permite fumar" (smoking is permitted) signs, on the other hand, abound in other establishments. One local restaurant and tapas bar, El Campanero, has found a compromise by opening its formal lunch-dinner dining area to clients wishing to have their morning coffee break in a smoke-free area.

Jose's cafe-bar, which qualifies for the under-100-square-meters loophole in the new law, must declare itself either smoking or non-smoking. If smoking is allowed in these small establishments, children under 16 years of age may not enter without their parents. Larger establishments can establish a separate, ventilated smoking area of up to 30% of the restaurant's square footage, but young people are never allowed into those exclusive smoking areas.

"What's ironic is that I couldn't smoke in here if I wanted to, but I have to breathe in my clients' second-hand smoke. This law is too harsh in many ways for restaurant owners. It puts me between a rock and a hard place. They should have done like Italy did last year and just ban smoking [in restaurants] altogether."

Waiters are not the only workers facing paradoxes. Home owners employing domestic workers and people with offices in their houses are calling the Anti-Tobacco hotline, wondering whether they can smoke in their own homes. Workers in tobacco shops may not smoke-not even smoking by clients is not allowed.

The first week of the workplace smoking ban apparently saw a drop in cigarette sales, soon followed by a heavy increase in cigarette substitutes and aids to help quit smoking. Not everyone was willing to break old habits, however. One man was arrested in Navarre on 8 January when the police asked him to put out his cigarette in the non-smoking area of a restaurant and he vehemently refused. The police arrested him and he was fined 240€ for disobedience.

Regional governments, charged with enforcing sanctions of up to 600,000€, admit they still have no idea of how they will implement the new law or manage the fines.

Tourists hoping to find smoke-free cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs and discos are best warned to lower their expectations and arm themselves with patience. "A lot of my clients are trying to quit, " says José. "It's just not the same for smokers any more. But it's going to take a while until we can afford to ban smoking in a place like this."

Main Points in the Spanish Anti-Tobacco Law

  1. No smoking in enclosed public areas and the workplace. Restaurants of 100 sq meters or over may create a separate smoking area. Small establishments must declare themselves smoking or non-smoking establishments.
  2. Points of sale limited to tobacco shops and vending machines located in smoking areas.
  3. Medical treatments are not financed by the State for smokers who want to quit.
  4. Minimum age of 18 for buying cigarettes. Minors under 16 may not enter smoking areas in restaurants.
  5. Bans on tobacco advertising.
  6. Minor fines of up to 600€ and major fines of up to 600,000€, depending on the seriousness of the infraction and the income of the violator.

Some Smoke-Free Cafes in Cordoba

  • Siena. Plaza de las Tendillas.
  • Cafetería Salazar. Avenida de Barcelona.
  • Cafetería Panis. Alonso el Sabio.
  • Cafeteria Savoy. Avenida República Argentina.
  • Cafetería Ortega. María Montessori.

If you know of other non-smoking establishments in Cordoba, please send us their name and address.



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