Sales at Spanish bars, cafes and night clubs plummeted 19 percent in the first month after the introduction of a new anti-smoking law, an industry association said Friday.
The losses, reported by the Spanish Hotel and Catering Association (FEHR), were far above those it had projected prior to the imposition of the law on January 2.
"As an exclusive result of the impact of the anti-smoking ban" sales at bars and cafes fell 19.14 percent in January, in restaurants by 14.35 percent and in night clubs by 19.88 percent, it said in a statement.
The estimate, reached from a study of 1,200 establishments in the sector, was the first of its kind since the law was imposed.
Some 85 percent of the establishments reported losses and only 1.5 percent said their sales had increased, which the FEHR said belied statements from the government that the measure would boost business.
The FEHR said the decline comes at "the worst moment of the last 50 years in the hospitality industry, with a general economic crisis."
The new law, one of the most strict in Europe, bans smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including bars, restaurants and night clubs, and makes it illegal to smoke in children's parks or anywhere on school or hospital grounds.
The FEHR last month launched an effort to obtain half a million signatures on a petition to demand that parliament change the legislation. It has also called for demonstrations in several towns and cities.
Spain has had an anti-smoking law since January 2006 but the impact was barely noticeable.
It banned smoking in the workplace, on public transport and in shops. But it allowed owners of bars, restaurants and cafes to decide whether to ban smoking or not. Most, faced with a drop in business, naturally chose to permit their customers to light up.