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Spain awaits its new no-smoking law with bated, and soon-to-be sweeter, breath.

When Spain introduced its current anti-smoking law in January 2006, the prohibition of smoking in the workplace was taken seriously, with many employees to be found taking their breaks outside their offices in order to feed their addiction.

Unfortunately the government took a softly-softly approach to smoking in bars and restaurants, offering loopholes to the country's many small, family-owned eateries, reports the Independent. Premises under 100 sq.mts could simply decide for themselves whether they would be a no-smoking establishment or not. Most chose not to be. So an evening out, continued to mean smarting eyes and the inevitable day-after trip to the cleaners with clothes that reeked of smoke.

Now it seems it will finally be possible to enjoy a fug-free glass of wine and a ‘tapa’, as tougher new anti-smoking legislation has been passed by a parliamentary commission, cracking down on the entire dining-and-drinking scene, including discos. It is expected to take effect on the 2nd January, 2011.

Bar and restaurant owners pushed hard to block the total ban, claiming it would cause precarious small businesses to close, a dire prospect in a country with 20 per cent unemployment. However independent studies consistently show that smoke-free laws have a positive or neutral effect on businesses, and medical associations spoke out before the commission met, revealing that 1000 waiters per year die due to passive smoking.

Hopefully, criticism that the present Spanish legislation is weak and confusing, can finally be put to rest as the new law rids the country of its dubious status as one of Western Europe's easiest places to light up.

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