MADRID Smokers have at least a few more months to light up in Spain's restaurants, bars and cafes.
The government had hoped to tighten the rules on smoking in public places this year, but Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez said on Tuesday that tougher restrictions are unlikely to be in place before the beginning of 2011.
She said reforms of a 2006 law that banned smoking in the workplace and Spain's metro, among other locations, would be presented to Congress at the beginning of June and debated the same month.
"All of that would take us to the beginning of 2011 when this could reasonably be approved," Jimenez said at a presentation of national health statistics in Madrid.
Further restrictions face tough opposition from Spain's Hotel and Catering Federation, which said a full smoking ban would badly damage the industry, with sales projected to fall by 7 percent in restaurants and 10-15 percent in bars and cafes.
According to statistics presented by the health minister, 44.2 percent of Spaniards oppose tougher smoking restrictions, with 47.4 percent in favor and the rest undecided.
Jimenez said the proposed measures were necessary.
"We're talking about a reform to public health ... smoking kills 161 people every day," she said.
(Reporting by Teresa Larraz, writing by Nigel Davies; editing by Steve Gutterman)