No more smoking in cars with children and more measures in new anti-smoking plan

by Lorraine Williamson
Anti-smoking plan

Mónica García had only just become Minister of Health when she announced that she would tighten tobacco laws in Spain during her term of office. Now, under García’s leadership, the department has finalised the draft of the document “Comprehensive Plan for the Prevention and Control of Smoking (PIT) 2024-2027.”

The ministry’s comprehensive anti-smoking plan includes the expansion of smoke-free zones, including in the “private sphere,” raising prices, and regulating the sale and consumption of tobacco-related products such as vapers. One of the goals of the plan is to reduce the daily smoking of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 to less than 20%. Furthermore, the plan wants the entire population to have access to smoking cessation treatments available in the public health system.

The anti-smoking plan is presented to the experts of the Committee on Public Health. After that, it goes to the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System.

Non-smoking terraces in bars and restaurants

The plan proposes to amend the legislation. So that smoking will be banned in more places than is currently the case. The document talks about “certain community and social outdoor environments”. Although the ministry previously suggested that this ban would target places such as terraces of bars and restaurants or, for example, bus shelters.

The draft text talks about carrying out “collaborative actions with the hospitality sector to promote compliance”. It is not only tobacco that is affected, but also electronic cigarettes and related products. The text also gives examples of regional or local authorities that have “smoke-free beaches” initiatives. The ministry emphasises that in addition to health, these projects also have a positive impact on the environment. One of the objectives of the plan is to reduce the use of tobacco and related products and the environment’s exposure to their emissions.

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No smoke in private areas when minors are present

Another point that the ministry insists on is the presence of smoke in private areas when minors are present. The initial focus seems to be on raising awareness of smoking in private spaces when living with someone else (both at home, in the car etc.). This is especially in the case of children and people with health problems”. But the “awareness-raising” leads to a ban through the “legal extension of smoke-free environments (…) in certain private areas, in particular areas where minors are present’. The current ministry wants this veto to also cover passenger cars, but it is not clear whether this can eventually be included in the relevant legislation.

Regulating the consumption and sale of vapers

In addition to legally equating advertising, promotion and sponsorship of related products and new products with what already exists for tobacco, the document also includes as a measure the regulation of the sale and consumption of tobacco-related products. And then both with and without nicotine, including vapers. The text warns of an increase in the use of both electronic cigarettes and hookahs among young people. The use of electronic cigarettes doubled between 2015 and 2022.

Smoking should become more expensive

Spain is still “the tobacco business of Europe”. Tobacco is now sold at half the price of other European countries. In the draft comprehensive plan, it is proposed to increase taxes on these products in order to increase prices. In addition, they should all be given generic packaging. The price increase should also apply to electronic cigarettes with nicotine. To this end, the ministry wants to introduce a specific tax.

Considering smoking as a chronic disease

The document emphasises the need to treat smoking as a chronic disease. Often, it is primary care doctors who are responsible for helping their patients quit smoking. But the health plan calls for the hospital to be involved as well. In addition, the criteria for including smokers in health-funded drug programmes will be adjusted.

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