It is currently not illegal to smoke whilst driving in Spain. However, the general consensus of a recent survey suggests it should be, if children are in the vehicle.

There have been many stories shared through social media of drivers being fined for smoking, and although it is true that there are occasions when drivers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, but it is not the act of smoking which has caused fines or sanctions to be issued, it is usually as a result of distraction, which can be the case when taking a cigarette out of a packet, lighting it etc, for example, or for throwing the cigarette end out of the vehicle, which is the most common infraction, and has all too often led to devastating results.

In the UK, the law changed in 2015 making it illegal to smoke in a car when children under the age of 18 are on board, but in Spain it is still legal. However, eight out of ten people (86.3%) believe that it should be made illegal. This is the result from a survey conducted by the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), as part of the 20th Smoke Free Week, in the run up to World Day without Tobacco, celebrated on 31 May.

It is noteworthy that this percentage has increased almost ten points with respect to the study that was conducted last year when seven out of ten respondents (77.3%) were in favour of stricter rules when children are in the car.

However, if we take children out of the equation we now see the opposite trend regarding smoking when in a vehicle. In 2018, more than 60% of respondents were in favour of banning smoking in vehicle, whereas this year the figure has dropped to 54%.

The semFYC association is using the data to lobby for an update of the smoking laws, which they say has had a considerable impact on public health over the last decade although elements are obsolete, they say. In the opinion of the family doctors, “there has been a relaxation of the current rules and many things in which we were pioneers, such as the Law of Smoke Free Spaces, have been left aside”.

Overall, semFYC want an increase in tobacco taxes, generic packaging, the protection of existing and increase in smoke-free spaces, a ban on advertising, and financial support for treatment of those wishing to stop smoking.

Almost 20% of the Spanish population smokes. Between 2017 and 2019, a slight increase in the number of smokers and a decrease in the number of ex-smokers has been detected. The average daily consumption of the smoker is almost 11 cigarettes a day. The age of initiation is at 17 years old.

Meanwhile, as we approach the long, dry summer season, we are also on heightened alert for the risk of fire. It is illegal to throw anything from a vehicle and there are hefty fines for those who throw even the smallest item, like a used cigarette, from their vehicle.