Today the Spanish Transport Minister, Magdalena Alvarez, announced that early next year, RENFE (Spain’s national railway company) will ban smoking on all train journeys that take less than 5 hours.
At present, RENFE trains have smoking and non-smoking carriages in first and second class. Because they get so clogged up with smoke and smell awful, travellers who are not heavy smokers, usually travel in non-smoking seats, and go and have a cigarrette in the train bar (which often has a cloud of smoke in it as a result) or at the end of the carriages by the doors. Infact is isn’t uncommon to see RENFE train staff smoking a cigarette in either of these places.
A Transport Ministry spokesperson has confirmed that RENFE staff are presently doing a course to help them to deal with smokers who have anxiety attacks during journeys because of the new smoking ban.
The number of smokers in Spain is slowly going down, but is still high compared to many other European countries.
31% Spaniards are smokers (compared to 35% five years ago) and 50.000 die from smoking-related diseases each year. Spain was one of the last countries to ban smoking on international flights, and you only have to get off a transatlantic flight at a Spanish airport and see how many of your co-travellers grab a cigarrette as soon as they are off the plane, to see how difficult it is many to go for 8 hours without smoking.
Smoking was only banned in public places relatively recently too. And it is still common in many banks to be attended by a cashier with a cigarrette in his hand. The Transport Minister, however, is a firm anti-smoking campaigner, and recently had a disagreement with the leader of the opposition Mariano Rajoy because she caught him smoking a cigar in a non-smoking area in the Spanish Congress!