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    Spain’s proposed flavour ban: what happens next?

    Alastair Cohen
    Alastair Cohen
    May 10, 2024
    5 min read
    Download Source FilesDownload Source Files

    With the consultation on a flavour ban in Spain now closed, activists might be forgiven for thinking that there’s little more they can do to change things. That’s not true: there are, in fact, a number of hurdles for the ban to clear before it can become law, and each of these presents opportunities to halt the process.

    Spain’s government in general is on a knife edge. At the time of writing, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez threatened to resign following the opening of a prosecution against his wife at the behest of a right wing campaign group, and then abrupt decided he’d stay on after all. 

    The government has never been particularly stable, relying on the votes of small separatist parties in Catalonia and the Basque country to survive. Elections are taking place in both of those regions in the coming months, with the effects of those on the coalition in Moncloa unclear to most observers.

    The Socialists themselves are not directly involved in this particular policy: the Health Ministry, which has proposed the ban, is run by far-left party Sumar, which is the Socialists primary coalition partner. It’s possible that at some stage, faced with popular opposition, the Socialists could pull the plug.

    Sanchez himself may already be eyeing his next big job. Rumors abound in Brussels that he’s hoping to become the President of the European Council in November, when the post becomes vacant.

    All of this adds up to considerable uncertainty at the macro-level of Spanish politics, and that feeds into every decision the Government takes, including this one. Banning flavours in vapes is an ideological preference rather than a well considered and scientifically sound decision, but if it’s seen to be particularly unpopular, realpolitic will likely prevail. 

    So what happens next, and when can proponents of safer nicotine products get involved? 

    We break down the next steps in this process and outline how you can tell Sanchez and his coalition what you think at every stage.

    Our sources think that the Government will wait until 31st May to unveil the draft Royal Decree, which gives them something to announce to the press on World No-Tobacco Day (and yes, the thinking in Government is often this shallow). 

    At this stage, we know they want to ban “additives that appeal to consumers” but we don’t know the details: it’s only once the Royal Decree is published that we’ll have any idea what the details look like.

    In this interim period, consumers and other campaigners who want to contact their representative in writing should do so, outlining their personal story with vaping, and how flavors helped them to quit smoking. You can also contact them via social media.

    Although Members of Congress will not vote on the new rules, if they are hearing significant opposition from their constituents, they may try to influence the content of the final proposed decree.

    To help, we’ve put together a Google sheet containing email and social media contact details for all Members of the Spanish Congress. To find the members that represent you, you can filter the list by region.

    Publication of the decree - a new consultation

    Whether it is on 31st May, or shortly before or after, it’s likely that the Government will publish the draft decree before the summer. This will be the first time that the text of the legislation has been seen by the public, meaning that vapers will, for the first time, understand what they are facing.

    As soon as the decree is published, Clearing the Air will summarize the key provisions and what they will mean for vapers, in both English and Spanish.

    From there, another public consultation will open for two weeks.

    We understand from our sources in Spain that the last consultation had over 1500 responses, five times what a consultation like this would usually attract. But when the proposal is spelled out in full, vapers will need to respond in even greater numbers to have a significant impact.

    From the moment the second consultation is published until the moment it closes, all efforts should be focused on getting as many citizens to respond as possible2, in their own words, through the official system. We’ll put together a guide to help you do that when the time comes.

    The second consultation closes, what then?

    Once the second consultation closes, the Ministry of Health will summarise the responses to the consultation and issue a revised draft decree to the government agencies that must sign off. This includes the State Council - the government’s highest advisory body - and the Spanish Competition Authority (CNMC). Each institution will also be given two weeks to issue an opinion.

    The text is then amended if needed and a final draft is issued to the Government for approval: all Ministers must approve the text.

    It is then notified to the EU via the TRIS system, where any person, company or member State can issue an opinion.

    It’s not over yet

    Consumers and small businesses in Spain still have plenty of time and many opportunities to oppose the bill before it becomes law. We will follow developments closely, helping you figure out who to contact when if you’d like to keep flavours in Spain. 

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