MADRID — Spain, famed for its smoke-filled bars, corner cafes and restaurants, set the stage Wednesday for a tough new anti-smoking law that will rid the country of its dubious status as one of Western Europe's easiest places to light up.
The bill passed by parliamentary commission calls for transforming all bars and restaurants into no-smoking zones, bringing Spain in line with the European Union's strictest anti-smoking nations and many U.S. states that bar smoking in enclosed public places. It's expected to pass the Senate and become law on Jan. 2.
The law also will make Spain a tougher place to smoke than many other European countries where bars and restaurants are still allowed to have smoking sections, and will prohibit smoking in outdoor places such as playgrounds and the grounds of schools and hospitals.
The current law put in place in 2006 prohibits smoking in the workplace, and workers puffing away just outside their office buildings are a common sight.
But that law aimed at cracking down on smoking permitted owners of most bars and cafes to decide on their own whether to allow smoking — and almost all ended up doing so, leading critics to label the earlier law as a total failure.