I’m in the UK at present, but I gather from friends and Spanish internet forums that the general public seem to be accepting the changes reasonably amicably.
Breaching the new law will initially cost smokers a 30-euro fine, but bar owners face a 600-euro penalty for a first offence, soaring to a potential 100,000 euros if they repeatedly ignore the legislation.
Smokers caught several times could also face a six-figure fine. But if my good friend Graham Lilley’s Day One experience counts for anything, few expats will risk the wrath of the enforcement boys.
Graham, who runs the popular Ricardo’s bar in El Raso, near Guardamar, told me: ''I didn’t need to remind my customers. They all came in telling me smoking is no longer legal and insisting they sit outside!”
Graham, an asthmatic, reluctantly decided against a smoking ban inside Ricardo’s last year because he feared he would lose more customers than they gained. Now he jokes: ''I’m happy the decision has been taken out of my hands but I hope it’s not the thin end of the wedge. No flambe dishes, no smoked salmon – and what about the mosquito candles!!”
That’s 630 euros the government missed out on for starters – unless the police walked in afterwards and chose not to join the fumadores.
A Javier-based member of one expat forum reported: ''Not an ashtray in sight in our local. Lots of smokers enjoying the sun outside, though. I guess the real test will come when it rains…’’
|Graham Lilley - happy with the ban|
And from the colder northern climes of Bilbao came this revelation: ''The major bars on the street where I live have put a table outside with an ashtray. People seem to be respecting the law up here, which I’m thankful for.
''There’s a LOT of anger – we were giving the smokers in the family a hard time yesterday at the family dinner and an uncle was saying he’ll no longer go to the bar. However, I doubt this because the daily coffee is a good excuse to leave the house.
''People will stay home more? This week, sure, people are going to be stubborn. Next week too. Week three? People will miss their coffee. Week four… we’ll see.’'
Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether there will in fact be ANY real change. Unlike Britain, the winter weather in Spain does not freeze everyone virtually to death so it won’t involve any great hardship for smokers to indulge their unsociable habit outside on a partly-covered terrace.
And once the temperature warms up, it will be back to the old routine. Everyone will make for the terrace, the smokers will light up – and sanctimonious battle-axes like me, too hot to go inside and avoid the fumes, will carry on moaning.
PS. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cool reaction of smokers to the flak I’ve been flinging at them this past couple of days. I fully expected an angry backlash over all the mickey-taking, particularly my recommendation that they try the balcony option (click here). All I can think is that perhaps the new anti-smoking laws in Spain fitted in nicely with everyone’s New Year’s Resolution.