New siege on tobacco: Spain considers banning smoking outside cafés and in cars

The ministry has already sent a preliminary draft of the new anti-smoking plan to regional governments

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BarcelonaIt is a draft, but it has already provoked a reaction. ARA has been able to confirm that the Ministry of Health is working on a new anti-smoking plan that aims to increase taxes on cigarettes and their derivatives and expand smoke-free spaces. Specifically, the Health Department is considering the possibility of raising taxes and banning smoking inside cars "before 2023," as advanced by Europa Press, which has had direct access to the draft.

The same sources point out that the new "Comprehensive Plan for the Prevention and Control of Smoking 2021-2025" have already been sent to both scientific societies and regional governments so they may make the relevant contributions before December 15. So far the Catalan Department of Health has refused to comment. Spanish Ministry sources quoted by Europa Press remarked that it is a "technical" and "very preliminary" document that still has to be refined with contributions from the health and legal sector, to agree on the restrictions that could be imposed.

What does the new text of the anti-smoking plan propose?

Among the star measures of the document is the increase in taxes. According to the draft. the ministry wants to "promote the revision of taxation to achieve an increase and an approximation of the price of all tobacco products and heating devices used for consumption". It also wants to "promote the taxation of electronic cigarettes with excise taxes," which would make the price of tobacco considerably more expensive.

The document also provides for the expansion of smoke-free spaces for both conventional cigarettes and electronic devices or heated tobacco. The central point is "outdoor areas", referring – according to Europa Press – to open air tables at restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The plan also considers banning smoking in private cars and playgrounds. "Spain will again be a pioneer, as it already was thanks to the 2010 amendment, offering special recognition of protection to sensitive areas, such as children's playgrounds and their environment," the draft specifies.

Another proposal is to set a generic and equal packaging for all tobacco packages to lessen the attractiveness of brands. This is a historical demand of anti-smoking campaigners. Specifically, the text wants to "adopt measures already implemented in other European countries, backed by experience and widely requested by medical and scientific societies". It also plans to better regulate the advertising and sale of all tobacco-related products.

Reduce consumption by 30%

The anti-smoking law, not updated since 2010, states that Spain would have to reach "a relative reduction of 30% in tobacco consumption in 2025," a milestone set by the World Health Organization in relation to the 2010 figures. Thus, the Ministry of Health wants to lower premature mortality from non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, in addition to reducing the rate of daily smokers by 5% in 2040 (and up to 7% among younger smokers).

Precisely in the case of young people aged 15 to 24, the goal is to reduce consumption by 20%. "It is feasible as long as the measures contained in this comprehensive plan, which will form the basis of the national policy on smoking, are implemented as soon as possible," says the document.