Smoke-free beaches

Pilot test on four beaches

A smoke-free beach is a beach where smoking is forbidden both on the sand and in the water.

Barcelona City Council is due to launch a pilot test that seeks to promote healthier recreational areas with a view to protecting people’s health and the environment. The “Smoke-free beaches” initiative is set to be piloted on the Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella beaches during the upcoming bathing season, which runs from 29 May to 12 September.

Barcelona City Council - through its Public Health Agency (ASPB) and Barcelona Cicle de l’Aigua, SA (BCASA) - is due to pilot its “Smoke-free beaches” initiative on four of its beaches this summer, in an attempt to preserve the city's coastline as a place of co-existence and civic behaviour. The initiative seeks to protect the health of citizens, with a particular focus on the rights of non-smokers (specifically vulnerable groups, children and pregnant women) and protecting the environment, with cigarette butts being a highly polluting form of waste that can take up to a decade to decompose.

Barcelona City Council has issued a mayoral decree to run the pilot test on the Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella beaches, where smoking will be banned throughout the upcoming bathing season, which runs from 29 May to 12 September. These beaches will maintain their regular services and will be duly signposted. A team of monitors will also inform visitors that smoking is banned on these beaches. If visitors ignore these warnings and continue to smoke when asked not to, the corresponding authorities may be informed.

Protecting people

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Spain. The scientific evidence on the health risks of tobacco smoking is conclusive, as is the evidence on the effects of environmental tobacco smoking (also known as ‘passive smoking’), which is a cause of mortality, disease and disability and represents one of the Spain’s biggest public health problems.

The provision of smoke-free spaces is more important still for vulnerable groups, including young children, who have a developing respiratory system and a higher respiratory rate. Moreover, beyond the direct health effects, the educational effect of smoke-free spaces must be taken into account, since evidence shows a lower rate of smoking amongst people who are not exposed to it on a daily basis. This is particularly relevant in raising awareness of the risks of smoking and reducing smoking among young people.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoking, since it causes adverse effects during pregnancy and increases the chances of the baby developing health problems.

In Catalonia, according to data from the Regional Government of Catalonia's Department of Health, 9,030 deaths are attributed to smoking every year (1 in every 6 deaths in Catalonia), which is the equivalent of 25 deaths every day. Furthermore, 70% of the adult population in Catalonia do NOT smoke, and 9 out of every 10 people state that they enjoy being in a smoke-free environment.

Protecting the environment

Tobacco consumption, besides being a public health problem, also represents an environmental issue. Every year, five billion cigarette butts end up in the sea, where they release metallic contaminants that cause changes to the biological systems of different marine creatures. This, in turn, can also affect human beings when they eat seafood. It also takes ten years for a cigarette butt to decompose.

How will the pilot test be evaluated?

In order to assess the “Smoke-free beaches” pilot test, a three-pronged evaluation is foreseen:

  1. Behavioural observation
    On each observation day, and for each defined area, the total number of people on the beach and the number of people smoking will be counted at the time of observation. A count will be made before and during the pilot test, with weekdays being distinguished from weekends.
  2. Cigarette butt collection and count
    Volunteer cigarette butt collections in collaboration with different entities who regularly carry out these kinds of activities: before, during and after the pilot test. These collections will be carried out on the smoke-free beaches and on regular beaches, which will serve as a comparison group.
  3. Surveys with users
    We would like to know your thoughts on the “smoke-free beaches” initiative on the Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella beaches, how satisfied you are with our proposal and any suggestions that you would like to make.
    Please answer and share this survey.
    Thanks in advance to everyone who participates

In late October we will present more detailed information about the results obtained from this pilot test.

Pilot test on four beaches

A smoke-free beach is a beach where smoking is forbidden both on the sand and in the water.

Barcelona City Council is due to launch a pilot test that seeks to promote healthier recreational areas with a view to protecting people’s health and the environment. The “Smoke-free beaches” initiative is set to be piloted on the Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella beaches during the upcoming bathing season, which runs from 29 May to 12 September.

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