Madrid makes its own rules – even at the cost of our health?

So, let’s see if I get this right. The socialist PSOE is the ruling party in Spain, but the Comunidad de Madrid (the Autonomous region on Madrid) is governed by the right-wing Partido Popular, headed up by Esperanza Aguirre. Earlier this year the PSOE introduced welcome, forward-thinking measures to stop smoking in many public and work places. Starting today, and only in Madrid, a law passed in Madrid by local PP boss Esperanza Aguirre allows people to smoke in work cafeterias again, if the cafeteria is under 100 m squared (if it is over, they can still smoke but only in a certain area). Why would she do this? Why put unhelathy measures back into place just when we were making some progress? Why make all those non-smokers who had happily regained their work canteen suffer again? To screw over the PSOE apparently. To make a (possibly illegal) point that in Madrid they are in charge. A point made at the expense of people’s health? This kind of thing really makes me dispair.

16 Replies to “Madrid makes its own rules – even at the cost of our health?”

  1. Well Aguirre does belong to the opposition at all cost wing of the PP, so the health of non-smokers is just a little detail compared to the big prize, which is Esperanza getting re-elected

  2. There are massively funded tobacco lobbies everywhere, aren’t there? From the United States to Europe, to the ones that hand out cigarettes to children in Africa, it’s the same companies the world over.

  3. Yeah I get the impression that this is more of a ‘whatever the socialists say, we’ll do the exact opposite’ than anything else. It’s probably also an effort to grab a bit more of the working class vote.

  4. lots of people still like smoking, maybe the PP thought they needed some representation. Even if it is unhealthy. Lots of people in countries where smoking is banned wonder about the lack of representation, though I’ve noticed they mostly adapt pretty quick and then everyone is happy. Have you noticed that many people who would never smoke a cigarette and can’t stand it when someone else does still drive cars or (even worse!) scooters. Those things are probably just as deadly!

    BTW I’m a non-smoker, but sometimes I wonder by what right a government tells a business owner what otherwise legal activity he/she may or may not allow on his/her premises.

    I don’t want all you non-smokers to get too wound up, but there are also some other legal/constitutional issues involved than just the right of an employee to eat in a smoke-free environment. Does the employer have the duty to provide an environment that suits everyone? Should we also ban ‘trance-dance’ radio stations at work? The employee has the right to seek another job. Does the employer have the right to seek only employees who smoke?

    I have no real axe to grind in this argument, but I like to encourage people to climb down from lofty positions occaisionally and try to look at issues from other view-points. Maybe PP is adding something useful to the national debate by challenging the law. If we never challenge the law we might end up surrendering all of our rights and priveleges, inspired by a government who knows what’s best for us.

  5. I agree that there is a danger of the ‘nanny state’ taking over too many civil liberties, but in this case it really seems that the PP is only doing this to piss off the PSOE. I don’t care about that, they can piss each other off as much as they want with the reversal of other measures, but the consensus when the original law came out was that banning smoking in the work place was a good idea. Now more people will be passive smoking again, and there is no doubt that that is bad for the health. I have always loved the freedom to do things in Spain that are strangled into oblivion in other countries like the UK, but this just seems plain stupid.

  6. Ben, wouldn’t it be interesting to do a poll of the people involved? Of course that’s far too difficult to arrange, but it’s interesting to speculate on the results. ONLY the people who work in the places in question – NOT everyone in the city.

    I’m inspired to sugges this because I have noticed that Holland in particular (where I now live) and Europe in general both seem to be adverse to actually asking the people’s opinion. There seems to be a feeling that this only leads to anarchy. In Holland the EU Constitution was apparently the first actual popular referendum in 150 years. And – the political establishment was shocked by the results, because they apparently don’t have a clue what the population really thinks. And this is supposed to be a representative democracy.

    In the US (where I come from) everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, can be put to a direct vote of the population. This can be almost as frustrating as the European non-vote option, but at least the people get a chance to vote on things that affect them directly.

    Here in Holland, we did not even get a chance to vote on discarding the 700-year-old currency and adopting the Euro. In fact, there was never a vote on whether to become a member-state of the EEC.

  7. I’d be very interested to know the results of a poll on this yes, but in the end I would still make the smokers go and smoke in the street. It wouldn’t kill them, whereas leaving them fogging up work places doesn’t do anyone else any good.

  8. Ben – that is the simple truth. I love a good discussion about freedom and politics, but in the end common sense prevails. If smokers had realized all along that their smoke was annoying and dangerous to their friends, family, and colleagues they would have gone outside to smoke, and no law would have been needed.

    I wonder why it’s so hard (sometimes) for people to understand simple things…

  9. I enjoyed reading your comments and sicussion. I live in an area where smoking is not allowed and I love it. When I am now put into a situation where I am breathing smoke I am forced for my own preservation to move. I would only think that soon the non-smokers in Madrid will voice their opinions and perhaps the law will get reversed again.

  10. Very interesting topic. I was surprised to see people smoking in the airports in Spain and in ticket desks in train stations in France despite audible prohibitions and visual aids. This was nothing compared to Cyprus, where you find people smoking everywhere.. it was particularly annoying in restaurants — it seems the people are oblivious to the effect it has on the people around them.

    I am waiting for King’s Cross station to ban smoking on the platforms and waiting areas. Each morning I am chocked as I try to make my way through the cloud of early morning nicotine addicts.

  11. As I see, Germany has not learned from the mistakes Spain has made before. Since this year many federal states of Germany have implemented a law that forbids smoking in restaurants and bars. The federal state of Bavaria implemented this law starting from January and claimed it to be the most harsh one within Germany, even banning the smokers out off the beer tents. Now the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – witch has in Bavaria a absolute majority (the only federal state with one) – fears to loose this. So it starts now to win back the voters that smoke by loosening the law more and more. The results: The Oktober Fest in Munich won’t be smoke free, other folk festivals follow, restaurants can perhaps separate between smoking and non-smoking areas/rooms. Restaurants that are private clubs can allow the smoking. So what was all the talking about health, saving children and elderly peolple for?

  12. A key component the drive to remove smoking from public areas, such as the workplace, is the attitude of the courts when employers are sued by workers (remember asbestos?).

    The legal profession could speed the process up by acting on behalf of affected workers, and if necessary, taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

    The sooner the better!

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