Friday 21 January 2011

Standing up in Spain

Josie Appleton reports how bar owners in Spain are refusing to take draconian new restrictions on smoking in public lying down:

In this battle it is crystal clear what is at stake in smoking bans, and what the different sides represent. This is not a conflict between smokers and non-smokers, but between those who are for the bureaucratic regulation of social life and those who are for tolerance and liberty.

The Spanish pro-ban movement is defined not by its dedication to health or even non-smoking (prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero himself is a smoker). Rather, its defining feature is a conformist mentality: an emphasis on following the rules, obeying to a minute degree official proscription for the regulation of social life…

…Bars are becoming political battlegrounds. When police visited the rebel Marbella bar and reported the clients who were smoking, the owner launched a broadside against the officers. Bars are starting to form into political associations, sensing that there is strength in numbers and that if there are enough rebels then the law will be unenforceable. In one area of Madrid, a group of bar owners formed what was, in effect, a rebels’ syndicate, pledging that they will all do ‘as much as possible to ensure that you can smoke in their businesses’.
It’s a pity we couldn’t have seen more determination and collective resistance in this country – although, to be fair, it is more difficult if you are a manager or a tenant than if you were an independent freeholder. Mind you, in Britain, they’d probably send in the SPG on the sighting of such a grave threat to public order as someone smoking in a pub.
As a libertarian non-smoker, I would prefer to live in a free society than one in which my personal preference is imposed by diktat. If left to free choice, it is likely that the result would be a mix of smoking and non-smoking establishments, and smoking and non-smoking rooms, in the same way as bars play different music or have different dress codes.
Precisely my own position.


  1. You mean free markets, liberty and freedom of choice might have worked out better than draconian dictatorhips. I wonder why those smart politicians in government never thought of it. Maybe they had some outside influence placed up on them at the time.

  2. It was left to free choice for decades, and the result was that smokers were allowed to puff in everyone else's faces with gay abandon almost everywhere. The "solution" suggest has been tried. It doesn't work.

  3. What does 'it didn't work' mean? It 'worked' for a lot of people who now have no public recreational spaces whatever. Many other people were happy to let people smoke in places they were never going to go to. There is no justification for not having smoking allowed *anywhere*.

  4. Barm, there was never a law banning smoke free pubs. For whatever reason, there was not enough demand. One opened in Todmorden in 1994 and gave up the policy after a few months. You can't blame that on smokers. Did you ever frequent the non smoking pubs which opened before the ban?

  5. It was also the case that, well before the ban, there were plenty of pubs with extensive non-smoking areas, in some cases amounting to about 90% of the licensed space. There was nothing to stop the small minority of people who really didn't like smoke using those pubs. And I suspect Barm will happily pass twenty pubs that don't serve cask beer, so he can't complain it's too difficult.


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