The Majorcan Restaurauteurs' Association called on the government yesterday to put off imposing a total smoking ban in all public places, at least until the country climbs out of recession. The plea is designed to give bars, cafés and restaurants a chance to introduce flexible alternatives for smokers.

The Association said that it was against “an immediate, total ban” but agreed that in principal it wanted to see a smoke-free hostelry industry. In a statement issued a day before Central Government was due to debate and decide on the proposed total ban in 360'000 restaurants, cafeterias and bars throughout the country, the Association urged that the goal should be approached gradually. The Restaurauteurs' Association, the statement said, wants to see legislation that addressed the issue of smoking both in the hostelry industry and in public spaces in general, on a stage by stage basis.

The Association said that “an immediate total ban” is an extreme measure that will result in a significant loss of business and jobs. Thousands of companies which are already struggling, particularly small traders and family businesses won't be able to keep their heads above water, the statement warned.

Three countries of the 27 member states of the European Union have introduced a total smoking ban. They are the Republic of Ireland (since 2004), the United Kingdom (2008) and Cyprus (2010). It is the opinion of the Restaurauteurs' Association, continued the statement, that other EU countries have not introduced a total ban because they are aware of the damage it will do to small businesses and to the national economy as a whole. They have instead, the Assocation claimed, opted for a gradual reduction of smoking freedom.

The Association is angry that Central Government's Ministry for Health has rejected the idea of carrying out a study on the economic impact an immediate, total ban would have on the national gross product of which the hostelry industry represents 6 percent. It described the ministry's decision as an “irresponsible mistake,“ because in the three countries where a total ban is already in place, there have apparently been serious losses in income for bars, cafés and restaurants and a downturn in employment in the hostelry industry.