CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Fall 2012
Home School: Elon University
Americans, with their heads facing the ground, smoke cigarettes in shame not so hidden. Spaniards, in great comparison, seem to inhale the airy, toxic soot confidently and as easily as the air they breathe.
Barcelona’s streets, crawling with bars that double as cafés in daylight, are highly conducive to the endurance of the existing cigarette smoking culture. However, a series of bans in recent years, some of the toughest in Europe, have attempted to impede Spanish smokers.
In 2006, smoking was banned in the workplace and large restaurants, while smaller establishments had the option to ban indoor smoking. Due to the longstanding cultural practice, most restaurants chose not to impose such a ban in fear of losing business.
In January, 2011, bar and restaurant onwers’ fears were exacerbated when another ban disallowed smoking inside their establishments entirely. It also banned lighting up on television, near hospitals and around school playgrounds.
“It’s part of Spanish culture to light up with a coffee or a beer and now is not the right time to meddle with that,” said Carlos, the owner of a small bar in Madrid, quoted in an article from The Telegraph. Considering the current economic drought in Spain, legislators in opposition have even proposed “sealed cubicles for smokers” to be placed in public spaces.
Despite the bans, it is still typical to find cigarette vending machines in bars as well as multitude of al fresco areas for the cigarette-bearing customer. In the coming years, it will be evident if these laws are able to oust such a strong cultural characteristic.