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Six things you should know about Spain's new anti-smoking plan

The Local Spain
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Six things you should know about Spain's new anti-smoking plan
A man smokes while drinking beer with friends at the terrace of a bar in Sevilla. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP.

Generic packaging, price increases, smoke-free public spaces and a crackdown on vapes. Spain's new anti-smoking plan is wide-ranging and ambitious, but not set in stone just yet.


Spain’s Ministry of Health approved a new anti-smoking law in early April. It's an ambitious and wide-ranging law, that, among many measures, raises the price of cigarettes, makes packaging generic and bolsters cessation services for people trying to quit.

The bill has already been opposed by several regional governments around the country, some of whom will likely try to challenge it or find ways to limit the implementation. The regions opposed to elements of the plan include Castilla y León, Balearic Islands, and Cantabria, and many other regional health authorities want more time to study the law.

In addition to the more concrete measures, the policy has an underlying aim of preventing people picking up the habit and supporting smokers who want to quit.

Here are six of the key changes to know about.

Price increase

The price of cigarettes and rolling tobacco is set to go up, largely owing to increased tax rates for tobacco products, as well as the creation of a specific tax for electronic cigarettes containing nicotine.

The government recently published a guide for new prices of some tobacco products, effective as of Saturday 6th April 2024.

Generic packaging

The legislation also restricts the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information other than the trade name or product name in a standardised colour and font on packaging.

However, this will require further legal reform, specifically laws regulating the manufacture, presentation and marketing of tobacco and related products.


The anti-smoking strategy also aims to put electronic cigarettes and vapes on par with traditional tobacco products by imposing restrictions on the sale, supply, labelling, manufacturing and marketing requirements so that they can only be advertised and sold at specific shops, as is the case with cigarettes.

It also introduces a ban on single-use disposable vapes, but this will also require a change in the law.


Smoke-free public spaces

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the plan: espacios sin humo (smoke free spaces).

The law pushes guidelines for more ‘smoke-free’ public spaces, especially where children are present. However, it is still unclear if this will include terraces and needs to be worked out, with the bill proposing ‘guidelines’ for now. Several regional governments have opposed this.

"The specifics of which are the smoke-free spaces will have to be included in the legislative reform, not in the comprehensive plan," said a Ministry spokesperson last week. "There are a few [spaces] that may be on the table, such as those already known, for example the bar terraces or public transport shelters.”

The specific public places where smoking will be banned remain to be determined, but compared to the old draft text of the bill, the Ministry has already changed the wording of this section slightly. Whereas the first draft referred to "certain outdoor community and social environments", the second refers to "certain public or collective spaces, especially those where minors are present.”

Support for smokers trying to quit

Many of the measures introduced, such as increasing prices, reducing smoke in public spaces and changing the packaging, are intended to help people quit smoking, or that less people will pick up the habit over time.

The plan also aims to take a more direct approach to helping smokers quit, through various levels of care and community groups, particularly for those from vulnerable groups.

Smoking cessation programmes in hospitals provided through the public health system will be improved and expanded in scope, namely by modifying the criteria for including smokers in the programme and disseminating more information material to help people stop smoking.


It doesn’t change much… for now

Although the measures in the government’s anti-smoking plan are wide-ranging and ambitious, in practice it does little to change the current situation and isn't law...for now. Though the plan has been approved, it is a plan for now, and it remains to be seen what makes it into the full legislative package, i.e. which measures actually become enshrined in law, especially after it goes through various inevitable changes and pressure from regional authorities.

In short, the most immediate changes will be the measures that do not involve legislation, many of which were actually already in force, such as those related to awareness campaigns and support for smokers trying to quit.

The bigger changes, notably whether or not smoking is prohibited in public spaces and whether or not that includes terraces, will need to be ironed out in law.

READ ALSO: What's the law on cannabis in Spain?


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