FEATURE Spain’s smoking rate rises to pre-ban levels Daily cigarette smoking in Spain has gone up to 34 percent. Two points higher than before the public smoking ban By Leo Forfar The Spanish government is accused of being “self-complacent and passive” after “alarming” new figures reveal that smoking rates have climbed above pre smoking ban levels. Spain’s biannual drug consumption survey has shown that 34 percent of the population smoke every day compared to 32.8 percent when the anti-smoking legislation was introduced in 2005. National Committee for Tobacco Prevention (CNPT) president Dr Regina Dalmau said she was “indignant” at the findings and has called for enforcement of existing policies plus the introduction of new measures to tackle the problem. The survey results showed that the youth smoking rate has risen by five percent in just two years and the data shows that more women are also smoking. Dr Dalmau, a cardiologist, said: “We will have to analyse in detail what sections of the population have seen an increase in smoking, but in any of them, the data is alarming. “Part of the explanation is the lack of policies to control tobacco, the self-complacency and passivity, which, given it is our main public health problem, indicates the lack of a sense of responsibility from the governments involved.” Health minister María Luisa Carcedo announced the survey findings in December and has already vowed to introduce a new plan specifically tailored towards curbing the climbing youth smoking rate. She said she did not know the exact reason for the rise, but said more must be done to enforce the existing laws. Carcedo did not say if there would be any expansion of the current laws which regulate smoking in private spaces such as homes or cars where children are passengers. Francisco Rodríguez Lozano, the president of the European Network for Smoking Protection said the increase in women smokers was part of the reason for the rise. 76 | VM21 He wants Spain to fast-track new anti-smoking measures in both public and private spaces such as bans on smoking at beaches and in cars. While the survey showed that the percentage of people who smoke has risen, the number of cigarette packs sold has actually fallen to 2.2 billion in 2017 from from 4.6 billion in 2005. It is unclear whether the drop is down to people smoking less, more smokers opting to roll their own or a combination of both. The original 2005 law prohibited all workplace smoking but allowed it in bars and restaurants under 100 square metres in size, provided they restricted it to a specified smoking area. A 2010 update largely closed the indoor loophole and banned smoking in almost all enclosed public spaces, as well as outdoor spaces in schools, hospitals and children’s play areas. Former CNPT head and anti-tobacco campaigner Rodrigo Córdoba does not see the existing laws as adequate and feels successive governments have incorrectly viewed a smoking crackdown as a one-and-done battle, rather than a process. “Nothing has been done in recent years,” he said. “In the fight against tobacco you have to continue to introduce measures. It’s like riding a bike. If you stop pedalling, you fall over.” Córdoba has proposed raising taxes on cigarettes – another effective method used elsewhere in Europe, though it is not clear which actions the government will take in the near future. Other survey findings showed that alcohol remained the country’s most popular drug with consumption at 75.2 percent while daily cannabis use remained constant at 2.1 percent of those surveyed.