The Balearic health and environment ministries are encouraging town halls to create a network of no-smoking beaches. The health ministry wishes to promote healthy habits that reduce the risk of disease, while the environment ministry is keen to make the public aware of not discarding rubbish in natural areas - in this instance, cigarette ends on beaches.
Representatives from the two ministries and the Felib federation of town halls have met to discuss an initiative that will be voluntary. The government wishes to appeal to "responsibility" rather than going down the line of introducing sanctions. Town halls will be able to decide whether they join the network or not. If they do, they will undertake to do all they can to deter smoking on beaches. However, this would not include fines.
The environment ministry points out that there is more marine rubbish from cigarette ends than there is from plastics. As with plastics, they can affect wildlife like turtles and seabirds. The ministry says that a single butt contaminates eight litres of water and that a cigarette filter can take up to ten years to decompose.
The government believes that an ever increasing number of tourists appreciate there being no-smoking beaches. These are good for family tourism, while reducing the amount of waste would lead to a cost saving.
At the meeting yesterday, only three town halls were in fact represented, one of which - Banyalbufar - indicated that it will introduce no-smoking beaches. Capdepera and Palma will study the proposals.
Meanwhile, the possibility of there being no-smoking beaches has already caused a stir among the British tabloid media. References have been made to police patrols on beaches.