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ENVIRONMENT

MAP: The beaches in Spain where smoking is banned

Spain has great beaches, in fact Spain has the most blue-flagged beaches of any country in the world, awarded to 590 bathing spots across its vast coastline for reaching high standards of cleanliness.

MAP: The beaches in Spain where smoking is banned
Photo: dutourdumonde/Depositphotos

However, even on the cleanest beach there is every chance that you will find a cigarette butt as you dig your toes in the warm sand.

Aside from being nasty to find between your toes or when building a sandcastle, cigarette butts are also terrible for the environment and marine life. 

A discarded cigarette butt is made of over 97% cellulose acetate (just a fancy word for plastic) and contains 4,000+ chemical toxins.

But things are changing, a nationwide movement against smoking has seen beaches across Spain designated as ‘smoke-free’ zones, with Andalusia becoming the latest region to consider banning smoking on certain beaches.

Galicia

After a pioneering trial by the Baiona town council in the province of Pontevedra, a smoke-free initiative spread through the rest of the region.

According to the Xunta, 2018, Galicia remains the region with the highest number of smoke-free beaches in Spain with a total of 79 designated. 

Catalonia

In 2006, Catalonia became the first region to designate a “smoke free” when L’Escala beach in Girona province came up with the plan. Since then, it has been extended to a total of eight beaches in the region, although no fines are imposed on those caught having a puff. The beaches designated as smoke free are Sant Feliu, Sant Pol,  Canyerets, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Playa de Ocata, in El Masnou, Playa de Sa Boadella, Canyelles, Treumal and Fenals, in Lloret de Mar and Playas de L'Escala.

Andalusia

Last summer, Motril, on Granada’s Costa Tropical carried out a pilot study to make its beaches tobacco free. The scheme was such a success that Andalusia is considered rolling it out to other beaches.

Jesus Aguirre, the regional health minister of Andalusia, announced plans last week on International No Smoking Day. He said residents will be asked to support the scheme at their local town hall, and those councils who want to participate will be given the support of the regional government.

The hope is that the initiative will promote healthy living, diminish contamination and improve the overall look of the beaches. .

Asturias

Asturias is designating beaches as smoke free for the first time this summer.

Beaches in two distinct areas of Asturias are involved in the trial, which could be extended throughout the region next year.

Playa de Misiego, El Puntal y Miami in Villaviciosa and playa de Los Quebrantos, in Soto del Barco.

 

Murcia

Thanks to a 2018 initiative, Murcia currently has 9 smoke-free beaches, with the aim of educating the population about the harmful effects of consuming tobacco and cannabis.

The idea, proposed by the region’s ministry for health, which hoped to promote a healthy lifestyle, is that if the beaches prohibit smoking, abstention from smoking will become the norm.

 

The Balearic Islands

With the intent of promoting a healthy environment alongside healthy habits, the Councils of Health and Environment “aim to base their smoke-free policies on responsibility and respect, instead of norms and sanctions”. In other words, no fines will be imposed but a public awareness campaign will be in place.

There are currently 2 smoke-free beaches in Ibiza, but it is hoped that additional coastal municipalities will follow suit, to raise awareness of the need to protect natural spaces.

– Playa urbana de Santa Eulalia del Río, en Ibiza

– Playa de Talamanca, en Ibiza

The Canary Islands

The island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands is way ahead of the curve when it comes to seaside smoking.

It has imposed strict fines to ensure smokers are sanctioned for lighting up on its 11 designated smoke free beaches.

In the Mogán area which has 10 smoke free beaches,, fines can reach up to €400 for smoking while on the beach, and a whopping €1,800 for discarding a cigarette butt onto the beach.  

A recent survey in Gran Canaria, which issues fines of up to €300 to those caught smoking on  its Las Canteras Playa, a designated “smoke free” beach, revealed that 90 percent of citizens wanted an outright ban on smoking on the beach.

The rest

Valencia, Basque Country and Cantabria are the other of Spain's regions which coastal areas but none of the three have designated smoke free beaches as yet.  

Valencia plans to run a scheme to see if councils want to introduce designated smoke free zones but none have yet been declared.

By Alice Huseyinoglu

READ MORE: Clean seas campaign launched on Spanish coast after sperm whale beached full of plastic

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ENVIRONMENT

Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.

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