Authorities in Spain are planning to ban smoking on all of the country’s beaches. Councils would have the possibility to impose fines of up to 2,000 euros. The possibility had been discussed for some time, and a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures was even created. A specific date set for the implementation of the new law has not yet been specified.
The goal of this new rule is to combat the pollution caused by cigarettes, namely cigarette butts, which are a huge problem on the more than four thousand kilometers of coastline in the country. They are a very worrying pollutant because they contain plastics that are not biodegradable and that emit toxic compounds.
According to a study done by the European Environment Agency in 2018, cigarette butts and their constituent filters are the most commonly found products on European beaches. Their constituent elements, such as nicotine and benzene, contaminate soil and aquatic habitats, and filters can be easily swallowed by animals.
Such a measure had already been adopted by some regions in Spain, such as Barcelona and the Canary Islands. The new law comes months after a petition by the No Smoking group began circulating on the Internet and was introduced in parliament by an environmentalist party after a less drastic approach by the government, which only wanted to encourage tobacco-free beaches to be created. It received 182 votes, with 70 supporting the initiative and 88 abstaining.
Other countries and regions, such as France and Sardinia, have also banned cigarettes on some beaches, but Spain is the first country in Europe with such a drastic approach.
This may be just a first step for Spain to become increasingly green, as the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has made environmental issues a central factor in his policy. His government hopes to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.