1 of 2
2 of 2
Courtesy Generalitat de Catalunya
Barcelona is getting set to butt out. Like the rest of Spain, Catalunya has been a haven for those addicted to nicotine, but when the country’s strict new anti-smoking laws come into effect, smoking will not be allowed at all in bars, restaurants or cafés.
Trinidad Jiménez, Spain’s Minister of Health, confirmed in February 2010 that anti-tobacco laws would be toughened by the end of the year, a move that consumer groups have dubbed ‘anti-cancer, not anti-smoker’.
The legislation has been a long time coming and, according to the physician Carles Ariza, secretary of the Comité Nacional para la Prevención de Tabaquismo, it will be widely supported. “The social norms are changing,” he told Metropolitan. “We have data now that shows 70 percent of the general population wants the government to change the law.” A poll published in El País on January 10th, 2010 found that 56 percent of those Spaniards questioned favoured more restrictions on smoking in public places.
Whenever the full ban is finally implemented, it won’t be the first time that Barcelona’s smokers have had to resign themselves to living with less than carte blanche to smoke where they please.
In 2006, smoking was banned in offices, shops, schools, hospitals and cultural centres in Spain. Businesses larger than 100 square metres were given eight months to set up separate smoking areas. This has become a bone of contention for the hospitality industry, which is asking for government compensation to offset any new, stricter law, arguing that many owners spent between €40,000 and €70,000 on modifications. Carles Ariza, who also works for the Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona, said that there were, in fact, few bars and restaurants that made these changes. “In some cases they divided the restaurants, but not exactly as the law dictated.”
Based on evidence collected from countries that have already put similar full smoking bans in place, changing the law will have little effect on the profits of the hospitality industry, according to a report issued by the Comité Nacional para la Prevención de Tabaquismo. “In the majority of cases in Europe, the expected losses didn’t happen,”Ariza pointed out.
Under the 2006 legislation, businesses with a floor space of under 100 square metres could choose for themselves whether to permit smoking on the premises, with the result that most of Barcelona’s bars, restaurants and cafés continued to be smoker-friendly. Tobacco companies considered the 2006 regulations a victory for their side—so much so that the Spanish model was promoted by them to other countries, according to a US study published in October last year by the journal Tobacco Control.
Spain is a relatively permissive country, and banning the cigarette that goes hand-in-hand with a daily café con leche, or a beer with friends, seems heavy-handed to some residents. “For me, it’s dangerous when the government decides everything,” Ignacio García, a 48-year-old, pack-a-day smoker told Metropolitan.
Globally, however, other governments are putting far stricter measures in place. In Tasmania, Australia, for instance, smoking is banned in vehicles with passengers under the age of 18. Also in Australia, in Queensland, smoking is prohibited in commercial outdoor eating and drinking premises and on patrolled beaches. In Japan, smoking is forbidden on the streets of Chiyoda, a ward of Tokyo. In many countries, lighting up within 20 feet (six metres) of entrances, exits and operable windows of public buildings is against the law.
Spanish smokers, by comparison, will still enjoy considerable freedom to puff, though many may choose to give up, said Carles Ariza, adding that after the last law came into effect, the smoking rate of the general population dropped from 27 or 28 percent down to 24.8 percent. In addition, figures from the Generalitat’s Department of Health show that 48 percent of Catalans who continue to smoke would like to quit.
Unfortunately for them, if they need help to do so, they’ll probably have to pay for it out of their own pockets. Treatment helping smokers kick the habit is not funded by the public administration, except in exceptional circumstances, although both the Comité Nacional para la Prevención de Tabaquismo and the opposition Partido Popular have been lobbying the government to do so.
Residents can, however, visit their local Centre d’Atenció Primària (CAP) where they will receive advice on the process to follow and be given general tips. It is also possible to call the Quit Smoking Helpline (902 111 444) and talk with a nurse, who will then call back for free in the following weeks to check up on progress and give support. The justification for not funding the treatment, according to a source at the Generalitat’s Departament de Salut who asked not to be named, is that paying for patches, gum, nicotine-blocking pharmaceuticals or some kind of therapy is cheaper for the smoker than the cost of cigarettes.
Carles Ariza works with teens using group therapy and is pleased with the decline of smoking among youths. For adults, though, he suggests those who remain resolutely hooked may benefit from treatment using prescription-only drugs. Pharmaceuticals, such as Zyntabac, function by removing the desire to smoke. Treatment usually lasts from two to three months, and a two-month supply costs around €85.
Other smokers manage cravings with nicotine replacements, such as gum or patches, or even chewable tablets. Nicotine gum costs €25 for 105 pieces, a supply for around 10 days. A smoker who consumes a pack a day, by comparison, will spend about €35 for the same length of time, depending on what brand they smoke. Additional options include going cold turkey or cutting down on nicotine by switching to weaker brands of cigarettes.
Those who have tried, and failed, sometimes turn to alternative methods such as acupuncture or hypnotherapy. Ferran Blasco Aguasca, an acupuncturist trained in the US and working in Barcelona, runs a special programme for patients hooked on tobacco.
“Acupuncture is a very good method to give up smoking in that it helps in three main ways. It helps reduce cravings because it helps calm the nervous system,” he said.
“Since the person is feeling better, what happens is they have more willpower to choose different options. It’s not like the cravings will completely disappear, but when the person is faced with the desire to smoke, maybe they will say ‘Okay, well I feel like smoking, but since I have a little bit more energy available, I can choose not to smoke, to drink a glass of water, to do some stretching, go running, whatever, just do some breathing, so I don’t smoke’.”
His clinic takes a practical holistic approach—sometimes using herbal supplements, while recommending dietary changes and exercise. The quit-smoking programme costs €145 and includes the first visit, and three treatments on three consecutive days.
Hypnotherapy is another option. Several practices in Barcelona run stop-smoking programmes. The Instituto de Hipnosis holds seminars several times a month, and claims a 95 percent success rate with a written guarantee. Seminars cost €240.
Giving up smoking is not easy. But the gain is certainly worth the pain. “Quitting smoking really requires looking into the reasons why one is smoking, because it’s very rare a person smokes because they really like it,” said Ferran Blasco Aguasca.
“Most of the time, people smoke by habit, or people smoke because it’s covering up some kind of emotional issue. Success depends on whether the person is totally committed.”