Smokers are stunned to witness a constant trickle of information that does nothing but generate unfounded fear in the population, taking advantage of the Covid health crisis. It is the objective of some to extend the ban on smoking on terraces in general, exerting for this a pressure that I would dare to describe as “little responsible”, by calling into question the safety of a space as important for the hospitality industry as the terraces .
A little over a year ago, the Public Health Commission of the Interterritorial Council already proposed prohibiting smokers the possibility of exercising our individual rights by smoking on terraces, where the impact on those who do not smoke is non-existent, as they are open spaces with enough ventilation.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed in some Autonomous Communities, and the proposal was buried. And so, in most of the autonomies the consumption of tobacco is allowed in these spaces, conditional on maintaining a safety distance.
Unfortunately, de facto, due to misinformation, and given the threat of possible sanctions to hoteliers, it is increasingly difficult to find a space where you can smoke in a normalized way without becoming little less than a criminal or a plague. This position of Spain is striking, when no EU country has restricted tobacco consumption due to COVID, since in fact there is no scientific evidence to support that the smoker is more susceptible to infecting it than a non-smoker.
Seeing that the control of the pandemic is getting closer, that the mandatory use of a mask outdoors is nearing its end with practically the entire population vaccinated or with antibodies, which will leave the restrictions on tobacco consumption without a “pandemic excuse”. on terraces, media pressure grows… “aerosols can reach up to eight meters”, “unsafe places for users and workers”,… Let’s be serious and base ourselves on science or put another way, let’s not generate alarmist justifications. It is lawful that some want to ban smoking on terraces and this does not need further justification; In the same way that I smoke, I want to be able to enjoy a piti with a coffee on the terrace of a bar.
And where is the meeting point between the two: in education, awareness and common sense. Faced with the prohibitions, not only on terraces, but also on beaches, in the private car (even if you travel alone),… there is an alternative. It seems that the easy way is to limit, prohibit, restrict. These are measures that run the risk of transferring consumption to other spaces, giving rise to more disorderly leisure and possibly more annoying for the neighbors; as well as with consequences for others, such as hospitality or tourism; but why not regulate towards tolerance and mutual respect to affect the freedoms of all citizens as little as possible. Let’s use our imagination, for example, with differentiated spaces for each other.
This situation leads us to ask ourselves, from ANFA, the National Association of Active Smokers, the real reasons behind it. And there we are not surprised either: the bans are just the continuation of a way of legislating that is not very tolerant and open -instead of dialoguing, agreeing and acting surgically-, broad brush, kick forward, ban after ban, not only in what affects us smokers. If you consent to this because it does not affect you, tomorrow you may be surprised by any equally arbitrary measure that affects your rights.
We are concerned about this drift. We are concerned because it threatens the rights and freedoms of a significant portion of the Spanish adult population. We believe that an adult and sane Spanish citizen should be able to decide if they want to smoke tobacco outdoors, as long as their decision does not impact anyone else.
Citizens do not want impositions, they demand dialogue and empathy, that decisions are respectful of their rights, shared and explained, and not imposed without empirical foundation. From ANFA we will continue to defend the individual right of the Spanish adult to be able to smoke in those outdoor or indoor spaces that are properly enabled for it without interfering with the right of those who do not wish to share these spaces. We will do so by appealing to the Government, to all governments, so that they legislate surgically and thinking that, in a democracy, the preservation of the rights and freedoms of citizens is the ultimate goal.
Sergio López Valdelvira is president of the National Association of Active Smokers (ANFA)