MADRID — Spain on Sunday introduced an anti-smoking law that is likely to turn the EU's fourth largest tobacco producer from a cigarette-friendly land abounding with smoky bars and restaurants, into one of Europe's most stringently smokeless.
The law prohibits lighting up in enclosed public places, although hotels are allowed to reserve 30 percent of their rooms for smokers. In a particularly tough measure, outside smoking is banned in open-air children's playgrounds — even those set inside parks — and at access points to schools and hospitals.
"It's a step that should have been taken four years ago, but I think the government got cold feet," said bakery worker Inma Amantes Ramos, 29.
Parliament approved an anti-smoking law in 2006 that prohibited smoking in the workplace but allowed bar and restaurant owners with premises under 100 square meters (1,100 square feet) to decide whether to allow smoking or not — and almost all permitted it.
Critics called the law a failure. Health Minister Leire Pajin said around 50,000 people died each year in Spain as a result of smoking-related illnesses, with around 1,200 of those being nonsmokers who inhaled secondhand smoke.