So long to smoking in Spain.

Over five years after Italy and Sweden introduced a ban on smoking in public places and over three years after England followed suit, a complete Spanish smoking ban came into force, albeit it tardily, on the 2nd of January this year. Smoking is now banned in all restaurants and bars, in airports, casinos and nightclubs, outside schools and hospitals, and even at children's outdoor playgrounds, reports the Daily Mail. So on your next trip to the Costas, take care: fines range from €30 for minor infringements to €600,000 for major offences.

But what luxury it is to be able to hang out for as long as the mood takes you in your favourite café or tapas bar without that heavy, eye-watering fug sending you out for a desperate breath of air. Most Spaniards were complaining about their clothes and hair reeking of smoke after an evening in a smoke-filled environment. Eating out or getting together for a drink should now become a healthier and more pleasant experience. Except of course for the die-hard smokers.

Hopefully the ban will be a success, as it has been in other E.U. countries, without too much damage to the revenue and custom of the county's bars and restaurants. The Spanish have a tendency to break rules and a tradition of flouting authority. And having a fag with an espresso is as Spanish as bull-fighting, tapas and Real Madrid. So a debate has arisen over the right to personal freedom, especially when it comes to forbidding smoking outside. But one thing is for sure: Spain has a strong café culture, and from now on we can expect to enjoy it without having to take the clothes to the cleaners the next day.

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