Spanish parliament approves law banning smoking in workplace

Spain's parliament was Thursday scheduled to give final approval to a law banning smoking in the workplace. The bill was expected to be passed unanimously because all political parties back the measure. It prohibits smoking in office buildings, shopping malls, cultural centers and public transport, among other public indoor spaces, as well as in areas where food is prepared and sold.

The legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, also forbids the sale of tobacco to people under 18 and extends a ban on cigarette advertising to include the media, billboards and product promotions. Violators could be face fines between Ђ30 (US$39) and Ђ600,000 (US$784,314). Under the new law, smoking would be allowed in smaller bars and restaurants, at the proprietors' discretion, but such premises would have to be clearly marked as allowing smoking.

Areas in airports, theaters and cinemas would also have to designate and separate areas for smoking. The legislation has stirred considerable debate, with many people, smokers and nonsmokers alike, considering it too sudden and excessively rigid.

More than 50,000 Spaniards die each year as a direct result of smoking, and 700 from passive smoking, the Health Ministry said, adding that the habit killed more people than AIDS and workplace and traffic accidents together, reports the AP. I.L.

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