84 weeks after being banned outright, smoking has been allowed to return to the outside terraces of the Canary Islands Archipelago. As of last Friday, March 25, all Covid restrictions at the regional level have been removed, following last Thursday’s Governing Council (regional cabinet) meeting. However doctors have reacted negatively to the return of the smokers, with Pedro Cabrera, president of the Official College of Physicians of Las Palmas, calling it “a step backwards” in the fight against smoking related disease on the islands.
Feature Image CC4.0: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
All smoking was banned within 2m of another person on August 14, 2020 when the regional Government detected an increased likelihood of COVID infections among smokers who gather together, with studies having revealed that the risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 infection was much greater among this group and those in close proximity to them. Eight weeks later, on October 9, the ban was extended to all pedestrians, outlawing smoking or vaping in the streets while walking, as it was not possible to guarantee a minimum safety distance of at least 1.5 meters from other people.
These limitations were supported by the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC). In fact, last year they carried out a campaign to mark World No Tobacco Day, focused on promoting the idea of keeping bar and restaurant terraces smoke-free, even beyond the pandemic. “Tobacco smoke not only increases the risk of transmission of the virus, but also negatively affects people’s health. Taking into account the data provided by a survey carried out by the [AECC], a majority of the participants were in favour of expanding smoke-free zones, appealling to social responsibility,” Fernando Fraile, AECC’s president in the province of Las Palmas said.
Non-smokers and children “do not have to be exposed to the toxic substances that are present in cigarette smoke”, said Fraile, it has been shown that tobacco is one of the main risk factors for developing lung cancer. “This goes beyond Covid. Lung cancer has one of the highest incidence in society and causes the most deaths», he added.
Fraile said that the AECC will continue to fight against smoking and to protect the population, but asks for support to win the battle. “We ask the Government to maintain smoke-free spaces and for people to respect the decision of the establishments that have opted to ban outdoor tobacco consumption.”
The Canarian Association of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (Neumocan) also disagree with the decision of the Canarian Executive. “We deeply regret the opportunity that the Government of the Canary Islands has lost to maintain this measure indefinitely. This decree not only contributed to protecting the health of the population, but also reinforced people’s freedom to not have to be exposed to tobacco smoke,” said Carlos Cabrera, vice president of the association.
The pulmonologist concluded by saying, the ban was already being sought before the outbreak of the pandemic, “so it should have been preserved” to strengthen the fight against tobacco and preserve the well-being of the population.
Smoking is not a right. It is a choice, and often a very bad one. Bars and hospitality establishments are under no obligation to allow smoking on their premises, though many do provide spaces where this is possible, at their own discretion. People do, however, have the right to be protected from other people’s second hand smoke, and smoking indoors has been banned for many years. What ever you choose to do, it is important to respect the bar owners and staff who will always do their best for their clients and are in no way deserving of negativity or criticism if they choose to keep people who like to smoke away from their non-smoking clientele and children. Smoke where you want, but please respect the policies of each establishment you choose to frequent.
Your body, your choice, whether you like to puff or you don’t. Just be kind and respect each other, enjoy and relax.