Barcelona to ban smoking on four of its beaches

Pilot scheme will operate from end of May to mid-September as part of city’s ongoing clean air drive

Barcelona is banning smoking on four of the city’s most popular beaches as part of its clean air policy.

The ban complements moves to limit road traffic in an attempt to improve the city’s poor air quality and “to advance towards a healthy, smoke-free city, and that includes tobacco smoke”, said Gemma Tarafa, the council’s health spokesperson.

From 29 May to 12 September smoking will be banned on the Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella beaches as part of a pilot scheme, although offenders will not as yet face fines. Smoking will still be permitted on Sant Sebastià, the popular nudist beach.

If successful, the city’s other six beaches – as well as parks and bus stops – are expected to be included next year.

Some 2,200 of the city’s citizens die of smoking-related diseases each year, nearly 14% of the total. Furthermore, about 15% of the 32m cigarette butts discarded every year end up the sea.

In the 10 years they take to decay they release particles of arsenic, iron, nickel and cadmium that enter the food chain.

While the move is unlikely to be popular among Spain’s estimated 10 million smokers, the tide of popular opinion is running against them. The ban on smoking indoors that came into force in 2012 has been welcomed by both restaurateurs and their clients and the council isn’t expecting serious opposition to extending it to beaches and other open spaces.

However, plans proposed in 2019 to ban smoking on Barcelona’s outdoor terraces led to protests from both smokers and the hospitality trade which had compensated for the prohibition on smoking indoors by increasing the number of outside tables.

That plan has been put on hold by Covid, which has made the terraces vital to the survival of bars and restaurants, dozens of which have gone out of business.

Under Catalonia’s Covid restrictions, smoking outdoors is banned everywhere where it is not possible to maintain social distancing but this is one ruling the otherwise compliant citizenry has chosen to ignore.

Barcelona is not the first place in Spain to outlaw smoking on the beach. The first was Baiona in the northwest region of Galicia. Altogether, 115 of Spain’s 3,514 beaches are smoke-free.


Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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