Ilivetolearn's Blog

January 12, 2006

Fumar prohibido

Filed under: Spain — ilivetolearn @ 9:45 am

We’ve been enjoying the new smoking regulations that went into effect Jan. 1 here, amid much discussion and controversy. Smoking is now prohibited in the workplace and every public place (stores, train stations); large restaurants must have separate smoking sections, and small restaurants and bars (under 100 square meters) must choose whether to allow smoking or not. Most of these establishments polled their patrons and, in something like 85% of cases, now allow smoking. I guess the tapas scene, where people stand four or five deep at the bar, talking at top volume, drinking beer or wine, and chowing down on finger foods, just wouldn’t be the same without clouds of smoke hanging overhead. Add to this the custom of throwing one’s paper napkin on the floor as a compliment to the quality of the food and you will understand why we like to eat our tapas at home rather than in the bars.

Spaniards have a love/hate relationship with cigarettes. Aside from the Greeks, they smoke more than any other Europeans, and cigarettes are so cheap here (some brands are a euro a pack) that the health minister says the country is becoming the tobacconist for the whole EU. Of course 70% of the smokers say they want to quit, and are happy about the new law because they think it will help them do so. Evan (for reasons known only to him) is collecting empty cigarette packs for an art project, and we are getting a kick out of the warnings on them…no namby-pamby “Cigarettes can be hazardous to your health” here…they start with “Smoking kills,” and move on to “Smoking can damage your sperm and reduce fertility,” “Smoking causes ageing of the skin,” and (my favorite), “Smoking can be the cause of a slow and painful death.”

We are all breathing cleaner air in 2006. Even the haze at the very top of the Atocha train station, over the amazing indoor rain forest (complete with frogs, turtles, birds, etc.) is gone.

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