Spain: sweet smoking initiation?
- Correspondence to: Esteve Fernández Institut Català d’Oncologia, Spain;
Things are changing in Spain. The prevalence of tobacco smoking, both sexes combined, has steadily decreased during the last 20 years; the real price of tobacco has increased in the last 10 years; a new national plan for prevention and control of smoking was approved more than one year ago; and new and strong legislation to protect non-smokers in public and private places (including bars and restaurants) and workplaces is to be launched.
However, a number of unhealthy practices continue. In addition to the Spanish custom of giving guests special cigarette gift boxes at wedding meals (Spain: wedded to tobacco. Tobacco Control 2001;10:305), another unhealthy tradition persists.
Almost all Spanish smokers remember their first cigarette (and former smokers even remember their last one…). Even those who have never smoked tobacco remember their first cigarette, even though it was smokeless—not a real tobacco cigarette, but a chocolate one.
The past half century has left virtually untouched the sale of chocolate cigarettes, sold nowadays in some supermarkets and party shops, and, as the photograph shows, in Christmas street markets. Imitation packs of cigarettes can be found in sweet (candy) market stalls, such as the red and white “Western” modelled on the well known RJ Reynolds brand, or the blue and white “Dulces” (meaning sweets) for one of the best selling brands of Spanish black tobacco from Altadis, sharing space with chocolate “Looney Toons”, bees, and angels. Moreover, year after year, in the Christmas’ season, these chocolate cigarettes magically arrive in many households accompanying the gifts brought by the three kings of the Christian scriptures—the Three Wise Men—who are the season’s traditional gift givers in Spain (on 5 January), or, alternatively, by Santa Claus (24 December). Spain continues to be different.