Ever since the extraordinary meeting of the Canary Islands Government’s governing council last Thursday, faced with a sudden increase in cases of coronavirus over the previous two weeks, there has been confusion among smokers about what is or is not allowed when it comes to smoking on Gran Canaria.  The decision to restrict smoking has led to a range of complaints and many smokers deciding to stay at home or in private spaces rather than visiting bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses.  Many bar owners have banned smoking altogether.

The new rules brought into force on Friday throughout the archipelago were followed by a video conference meeting of the central government in Madrid and the governments of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, including The Canary Islands, which led to a nationwide decision to close nightclubs and ban the use of smoking devices such as shishas and electronic cigarettes at leisure venues.  All night spots now have to close before 1am, and cannot allow any new customers after midnight.

Young Smoker

Image: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

There has been an outcry, if somewhat muffled, regarding impositions on people’s’ freedom to smoke and socialise, with many turning to the Spanish BOE (Gazette Bulletin) and the regional equivalent BOC here in The Canary Islands to try to understand the letter of the law.

The simple fact is; smoking is bad.  It is bad for the smoker, who is many more times as likely to suffer health problems and complications particularly if they contract coronavirus, and it is bad for those around them who do not choose to inhale the smoke produced.  What is more, smokers tend to see themselves as a little more free thinking and rebellious, despite being faced with facts they continue to uphold their right to harm their own body. Smokers spend long periods talking at each other while they stand or sit together, not wearing face masks, and repeatedly touching their faces.  So while there may be some debate on whether or not cigarette smoke is a cause of contagion, it is clear that the very act of smoking is an increased risk in terms of epidemiological control.  Smokers often chew the fat, and consider the odds, and this in itself may well have a real value to society, if you overlook the cost of increased respiratory illness and cancer treatments, smokers themselves should not feel blamed for something they cannot control.

Smoking a cigar

Image: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

It is also a fact that although smoking on Gran Canaria has been restricted, as part of our response to a global pandemic that threatens us all, specifically in public settings where a minimum distance of 2m from all other people, smokers or not, cannot be guaranteed.  Has the government punished smokers? No, they have not.  But there is now a clear set of guidelines that helps to reduce the risk of people who choose to smoke circumventing the rules already in place, namely that you should always wear a mask in public places, certainly indoors, and in particular if you cannot guarantee a minimum distance of 1.5m from others.

To be clear the published BOC on Friday includes “Smoking and tobacco inhalation devices” in the public distancing measures, however only includes “inhalation devices” in the leisure establishments prohibition:

  • “2.1.12. Smoking, using tobacco inhalation devices, water pipes, hookahs, shisha or the like will not be allowed on public roads and in outdoor spaces, as long as it is not possible to guarantee the maintenance of a distance of 2 meter interpersonal security. “
  • “4.4. The use of tobacco inhalation devices, water pipes, hookahs, shisha, or similar is prohibited in all entertainment, leisure, hotel, restaurant and any other type of establishment open to the public.”

Simply put, the potential here is that whether or not you can smoke is likely to be at the discretion of the bar owner (and the proper advice they receive). Theoretically, if they let you, you can smoke if you want to, but do it on your own, over there, at least 2m away from everyone else, keep us all safe by washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing a mask whenever in the company of people you do not live with.  Not for ever, just for a while, until we get this thing under control. Thank you.

This is not to be taken as legal or medical advice. We are not lawyers or doctors, we are volunteers who read and write.  Please double check the facts with professional advisors before taking any risks!