Daily US Times: Spain’s north-western region of Galicia has banned smoking in public places due to concerns it increases the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
It has issued a blanket ban on smoking in the street and in public places, such as bars and restaurents if social distancing is not possible.
The region is the first to introduce such a measure, although others are considering following it.
It comes as the country faces the worst infection rate in western Europe.
Daily cases in Spain have risen from fewer than 150 in June to more than 1,500 throughout August. On Wednesday, it recorded 1,690 new cases in the latest daily count, bringing the country’s total to almost 330,000.
Galicia’s smoking ban was announced in a press conference on Wednesday after growing number of experts recommended the measure to the regional government.
The decision is supported by a health ministry research, which was published last month, that outlined the link between smoking and the increased spread of coronavirus.
The report said the risk was heightened because people project droplets – and potentially Covid-19 – when they exhale smoke.
It also said smokers risked infection in other ways, such as by handling face masks when taking cigarettes on and off and by touching their cigarette before bringing it to their mouth.
The research also focused to the wider negative health effects of smoking. It said: “It has been proven that tobacco use, in any of its forms, worsens the course of respiratory diseases.”
The report continued: “Current evidence indicates that smoking is associated with… higher risk of developing a severe form of symptoms.”
Regional President Alberto Núñez Feijóo told the press conference on Wednesday: “Smoking with no limits… with people close by and without any social distancing [poses] a high risk of infection.”
Alberto Fernández Villar, a member of the clinical committee advising government, added “We know that this is an unpopular measure for smokers,” according to the El País newspaper.
“But I believe we are in an exceptional situation,” he said.
Similar measures have been imposed in other countries, such as in South Africa where the sale of tobacco was banned at the end of March.
It justified the ban on health grounds based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) and its own medical experts.
And in the United Kingdom, a survey showed that more than one million people had given up smoking since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The government of the UK issued advice saying smokers may be at risk of more severe Covid-19 symptoms.
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