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Up in Smoke? Could COVID crisis lead to a complete ban on smoking?

Galicia announced new laws to prohibit smoking when social distancing is not possible and almost immediately multiple other regions are considering a similar move, including Aragón.

Sira Repollés, the Health Minister for Aragón refused to rule out such a move when questioned during a visit to the Lozano Blesa Clinic Hospital in Zaragoza on Thursday.

Galicia have effectively banned smoking in public spaces where a two metre social distance cannot be guaranteed amid concerns that the activity aids the transmission of the virus. The measure was announced in a press conference on Wednesday and quickly adopted by the Canary Islands as well. Asturias, Madrid, Cantabria, Andalucia, Navarra, Castilla La Mancha, Valencia and Castilla León are also said to be considering the move. Spain is not the first country to adopt such measures. South Africa actually banned the sale of tobacco products at the end of March on advice from experts.

The restrictions also include electronic or vaping products. A Stanford University study found vapers were five times more likely to contract COVID whilst dual users of tobacco and vaping at seven times more risk. Experts recommend a social distance of ten metres for a smoker. If this criterion is to be adopted, this would make smoking in almost any hostelry environment effectively impossible, something that will be welcomed by many. Anti tobacco campaign groups and epidemiologists have been calling for such moves, with permanent bans to extend to terrazas, beaches and private cars. It surely can only be a matter of time before private homes are added to that list considering so many COVID infection clusters are reported to be from family gatherings.

Smoke is considered a transmission factor but also smokers obviously drop their masks when lighting up. Further to these factors health experts are warning that smoking has serious implications for respiratory conditions. This seems a long way from the early data in the year which suggested smokers were at less risk from infection. These early reports have been dismissed on the basis that COVID tends to be more prevalent in older people and smokers die younger. Effectively arguing that the lower number of smokers in COVID infection rates was because they were already dead!

Data has shown that the percentage of Spaniards who smoke was 34%, unexpectedly up from 32.8% at the time of the anti smoking law introduction in 2005. the UK registered only 14.7% of the population, around 7.2 million people. A recent survey found that around 1 million British smokers had attempted to quit during the COVID crisis.

Smokers are truly under fire in the new normal.


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