The Spanish government has launched an all-out war on smoking to the extent that in the New Year smoking could be prohibited in company buildings, with the management expected to provide smoking areas for staff. The Spanish government intends to take the drive to try and get Spaniards to kick the habit even further by ending tobacco's price link to the budget, thus enabling the government to slap any levy it wishes on the price of cigarettes, hoping that it will price smokers out of the market. While most other northern European countries are well accustomed to the “smoking or non-smoking?” greeting on entering restaurants, in Spain it may come as shock to some clientele. So too will the idea of standing out in the rain during the winter in order to have a cigarette while at work. Apart from the obvious reasons, there is rising concern in Spain over the large number of teenagers becoming addicted to tobacco. The results of a recent study in the Balearics revealed that one on three people smoke and that the largest “catchment” area is amongst young people. The government and health authorities want to prevent youngsters from starting and getting hooked at an early age. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Health, Celia Villalobos, stressed the need for a change in Spanish culture with regards to tobacco and confirmed that at the start of the New Year, a decree will be signed which will prohibit smoking in the work place. She said yesterday that while the large offices will have little problem adapting to the new law, all offices, large or small, will have to find some room somewhere to provide a designated smoking area. She also said that the proposal to remove tobacco from the consumer price index has been well received by the European Union. Brussels supports the idea of bringing in tighter controls on tobacco “because tobacco is a legal drug which causes serious damage,” the Spanish Health Minister said. The health service is also studying ways of helping finance smokers who wish to kick the habit. But the focus is on young people. Villalobos said that Spanish culture has to change so that youngsters are made aware of the fact that smoking at an early age is “stupid.” In order to get this message across, the Ministry for Health is teaming up with the Education department and a network of non-governmental organisations to ensure that the government can spread the word. With regards to the tobacco producers, Spain produces the most tobacco in the European Union, the government is studying a number of compensation packages.

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