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The pilot test that took place on four beaches in Barcelona last summer, which became smokefree spaces, will be extended from this July to all those on the coast of the Catalan capital. This has been decided by the city council, which will ban cigarettes on the city's ten beaches with the intention of achieving "healthier places for enjoying together, with less waste and more respect for the environment". The announcement is accompanied by a video in which they argue that the beaches will from now on, be "free for lovers of the sea, sand, sports and reading" and also free of "smoke and butts". This is the main new feature of the 2022 beach season, which was presented today and begins this weekend, but the council has also announced its plan to improve beach accessibility. However, the start of the swimming season will be affected by the effects of storm Celia, which hit Catalonia in mid-March and caused considerable erosion of sand. For this reason, beaches will have to be built-up once again with the sand from the dredging of the mouth of the Port Olímpic.

The drastic anti-smoking measure, which will be monitored by the city's beach management and its public health agency, will be applied in two different phases: the first between April and June, when an information campaign will be held to let beachgoers know about the new regulations, as well as the benefits not just for the health of those enjoying the beaches but also for the environment. The council is currently in the process of amending the bylaws so that the ban can take effect in July. The city councillors with responsibility for the climate emergency, health and sports, as well as the president of the Municipal Institute for People with Disabilities, spoke to explain the measure, recalling that a cigarette butt takes a decade to break down, and thus the ban would eventually enable them to disappear from the coast. They expect to have the necessary voting support to approve the new regulations.

Smokefree pilot test, a success

At the end of May 2021, the pilot test was launched on four beaches in Barcelona. As the start of the high season began for enjoying the seaside, the ban on smoking came into force on the beaches of Sant Miquel, Somorrostro, Nova Icària and Nova Mar Bella. The city council as highlights that the rating given to the experiment was 8.1 on beaches where smoking was still allowed and 8.2 on which cigarettes were already banned. In addition, it was found that the number of smokers on the four beaches was up to seven times lower on the smokefree beaches.

At the end of March, Spain's Congress of Deputies approved a new law on residues and contaminated soil, aimed to promote a circular economy and meeting the management objectives set by the European Union for 2025, 2030 and 2050. This law gives power to city councils to enforce smoking limitation and to sanction violations of them, taking into account the European directives. As the Barcelona councillors noted today, the new ban is covered by this regulation.

Post-Covid, beaches are back to normal

The pandemic also brought big changes to Barcelona's beaches. If up till 2020 we were used to seeing the five-kilometre stretch of the city's coastline crowded all summer with tourists, as well as residents who could not go on holiday, things have been different during the last two seasons, with capacity restrictions applying on the sand. With the return to epidemiological normality, the only restriction left in Catalonia is the mask mandate (basically, limited to indoor spaces and set to disappear after Easter), the beach capacities will be as they were before the pandemic, but it will still be possible to consult beach occupancy online.

At this Friday's press conference, the councillors confirmed their intention to regulate surfing on the beaches, as right now the rules do not make it clear when this sport can be practiced. Work is also underway on regulations to make it clear when, how and where elements and equipment can be installed to practice sports both on the sand and up to 200 metres offshore. They also announced that between 7pm and 9pm recreational fishing will be limited to an area of ​​Barceloneta, and after 9pm will be allowed on all beaches.