Will Spain ban smoking in cars and on terraces?

by Lorraine Williamson
smoking ban

MADRID – Spain’s Health Ministry has finalised an ambitious overall anti-smoking plan. It includes a ban on smoking in private vehicles. But furthermore, it recommends uniform packaging for all tobacco brands and more restrictions on electronic cigarettes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic partly slowed down the fight against tobacco. But now a draft plan, a 119-page document containing five goals and 21 targets, has been approved; the ‘Global Plan for Smoking Prevention and Control 2021-2025’.  

A 30% reduction in tobacco consumption by 2025 

Spain wants to “reach the target set by the WHO, i.e. to reduce tobacco consumption by 30% by 2025 compared to 2010 figures. With this target, the government also wants to increase the tax on new tobacco products. The draft plan has been sent not only to scientific and medical societies but also to the autonomous regions, which can submit their comments by December 15. 

Towards a tobacco-free generation 

In this plan, the Ministry of Health, under the leadership of Minister Carolina Darias, recalls that more than 10 years have passed since the last ‘significant’ change in health measures against smoking and is now aiming for a ‘tobacco-free generation’ in Spain, in line with the standards set by the European Union and the WHO. 

Therefore, according to sources, ‘before the year 2023,’ Public Health will propose the extension of smoke-free areas (including for electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products), ‘especially in open-air areas’. This is an implicit reference to terraces of bars and restaurants and the surroundings of public buildings. 

The Ministry of Health also wants to amend Law 28/2005 and Royal Decree 579/2017. This is in order to adapt all anti-smoking regulations ‘to the changes brought about in the market by the appearance of new products. And to make progress in regulating smoke-free environments’. These areas – smoke-free and ‘aerosol-free from e-cigarettes’ – also include ‘certain private areas’ such as ‘private vehicles’.  

No surreptitious advertising and “own” tobacco packaging 

As a fundamental line of action, Public Health has also included in the plan that “the advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of related products and new products will be brought into line with the existing legislation on tobacco products. The Ministry also wants to better regulate the sale and consumption of tobacco products, ‘with or without nicotine’. 

Furthermore, the increasing amount of disguised advertising and promotions on social media platforms for all new products will be tackled. And, following the example of other countries such as France and Australia, the ministry plans to introduce generic packaging on cigarette packs. This can be achieved through a royal decree to remove the attraction of brand names and help reduce cigarette consumption. It is also recommended by medical scientific societies. And is also proposed to ban aromatic additives in tobacco and related products. 

Tax review 

The Ministry of Darias plans to ‘promote the review of taxation to increase and approximate the price of all tobacco products and heating appliances used for their consumption’, as well as to ‘increase taxation on electronic cigarettes with special taxes’. 

What is new in this plan? 

One of the novelties compared to previous tobacco plans is that this draft openly refers to the need to find ‘alternatives to tobacco growing’ in Spain. But environmental considerations also play a role. For example, extending the smoking ban on beaches could help reduce litter, such as cigarette butts. This will, therefore, affect the marine ecosystem less. 

Target is less mortality 

The ultimate goal is to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030. And to follow the European recommendation to reduce daily smoking by 5% by 2040. But with an additional 2% for the 14-18 age group. 

The Ministry of Health wants all these life-saving targets to be endorsed by all parties. Thereby ‘achieving a national agreement on smoking prevention with the support of parliamentary groups’. 

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