Places like Madrid and Seville are considering banning smoking in the streets after studies show it could help spread coronavirus.
New studies carried out by Spanish health officials looking into the effects of smoking in public and the spread of coronavirus show, smokers–who are known to be at higher risk of contracting the virus according to the World Health Organization–could have a higher potential for spreading the virus.
As a result, provinces across Spain like Madrid and Andalucía, in the south of Spain, are considering banning smoking in the streets to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ban also applies to spaces in which social distancing can be harder to enforce like patios and outdoor dining spots.
In other Spanish provinces like Galicia, in northern Spain, the ban has already taken effect. “Members of our health committee believe that smoking without any restrictions, whether it be in a patio close to other patrons or in popular city areas without any social distancing, poses a great risk of infection,” stated Alberto Núñez Feijoo, governor of Galicia.
The chief of pneumology at the hospital of Vigo (a city in Galicia), Alberto Fernández Villar, agrees. “Smokers with COVID-19 carry a higher viral load and therefore have a higher risk of spreading the virus,” said Fernández Villar to the Spanish newspaper, El País. When they exhale, they release more droplets in which the virus can travel.
Fernández Villar also pointed out that this new measure should not be seen as a prohibition, but rather a duty for all smokers who “must be capable of making sure they maintain the required safety distance when smoking public.”
Though it wouldn’t be quite as much of a cultural shift here in the U.S., New York doesn’t appear to have any plans to ban public outdoor smoking…yet.