The Spanish region of Galicia has just effectively banned the act of smoking in public places over the concerns that it increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19
Galicia has issued a blanket ban on smoking in public areas of the region, including in the street and in restaurants and bars, if the necessary social distancing precautions cannot be met.
Galicia, in the north-west of Spain, is the first region to introduce such measures, although other areas of the country are now considering following the example. It comes as Spain is facing the worst coronavirus infection rate throughout western Europe.
Daily cases of the coronavirus have risen from fewer than 150 cases in June to more than 1,500 infections throughout August. It recorded 1,690 new cases of COVID-19 in the latest daily count on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to almost 330,000 contractions of the disease.
This comes after COVID-19 has once again broken out in New Zealand for the first time in over 100 days and has prompted the nation’s government to put its largest city into a strict form of lockdown.
The smoking ban in Galicia was announced in a press briefing on Wednesday following experts recommending the unprecedented measure to the regional government of Galicia.
This new move is supported by research from the Spanish health ministry that was published last month, which showed the link between smoking and the increased transmission of the coronavirus.
It said the risk had been heightened due to people projecting droplets and potentially COVID-19, when they exhale tobacco smoke.
The Spanish health ministry also said that smokers risked spreading infection in other ways, such as by touching cigarettes before bringing it to their mouth and by touching face masks and taking them on and off whilst smoking.
This comes after the way the UK government counts up how many people in England have died from COVID-19 will be changing amid concerns that the previous system that was in place is “misleading”. Figures for England will now be coming into line with the rest of the UK nations by imposing a 28-day cut off period for counting coronavirus-related fatalities.
The research also pointed to the wider negative health effects of smoking. “It has been proven that tobacco use, in any of its forms, worsens the course of respiratory diseases,” it said.
“Current evidence indicates that smoking is associated with… a higher risk of developing a severe form of symptoms,” it added.
“Smoking with no limits… with people close by and without any social distancing [poses] a high risk of infection,” regional President Alberto Núñez Feijóo told the press conference on Wednesday.
“We know that this is an unpopular measure for smokers,” added Alberto Fernández Villar, a member of the clinical committee advising government, according to the El País newspaper. “But I believe we are in an exceptional situation.”
Similar measures have been imposed elsewhere on the globe, such as in South Africa where the sale of tobacco was banned early on in the pandemic, at the end of March.
It justified the ban of tobacco on health grounds based on the advice from the country’s medical experts, as well as from the World Health Organisation (WHO).