Smoking in Europe

I have heard from a coworker who just returned from France that people in that country smoke just about everywhere. In restaurants there are often NO non-smoking areas, and it is not uncommon to see people smoking in department stores (she said there was even an ash tray in a fitting room).

I would think that department stores (especially) would not want to allow smoking because of the way the smoke sticks to the merchandize, and then the risk of fires with all of that fabric. I know that all it takes to have my clothes reek is to stand in a smokey nightclub for 15-20 minutes.

This was seconded by a friend who went to Germany recently and said that there were numerous people puffing away in banks (where even the tellers were puffing away behind the glass, and the entire lobby had a faint haze hugging the ceiling that you could swirl around with your fingers if you reached up), government offices & similar establishments that we (in the states) now come to think of as “clean, business-like areas”.

Some general questions:

  1. Is smoking really that commonplace in Europe, and are there any places that are truly non-smoking? What about hospital lobbies?

  2. Where is the militant European anti-smoking crusade, similar to the one that has come to power in the states in recent years? Why aren’t angry sons & daughters suing tobbaco companies over the deaths of parents & deceptive TV ads?

  3. (A general/tangental question about kids “learning to smoke”) A number of sites seem to indicate that there is some movement to educate pre-teens about the dangers of smoking (site), but I remember (vaguely) back in grade school that it was pretty well understood that it wasn’t healthy to deeply inhale smoke into your lungs. It’s not really clear to me when I came to this realization; I probably picked it up from fire safety class or something. Why don’t teens make the proper connection between inhaling smoke (from a fireplace, for example) and inhaling it from a small controlled fire called a cigarette?

  4. More than a few friends of mine who have emigrated from contries in Europe & Asia tell me that a major influencing force in getting kids to smoke was that of roll models in popular American-made movies. Kids wanted to be like John Wayne or Norma Desmond, so they smoked to emulate their heroes. Any truth to that?

Well, there’s a loud anti-smoking lobby here in Sweden, backed up by a goverment that wants to forbid smoking altogether in restaurants (which is almost the only refuge left).

Not that I smoke myself, other than an occasional cigar, but I think it has gone way too far. It really should be up to the restaurant owner to decide and then the non-smokers can go to their bars (and stop whining) and the rest to theirs.

I think that it’s even worse in Finland though.

My old philosophy teacher in high school, BTW, put it like this: “Let’s say that smoking is not allowed in public places. Are my shoes a public place? No. Thus I should be allowed to smoke anywhere whenever I wear my shoes”.

I can only offer anecdotal answers to these two questions:

  1. From my experience in Italy, YES. As soon as I stepped off the plane at the Leonardo di Vinci airport, I was stunned by the open smoking, especially around the baggage claim conveyor belts. Also, in trains, waiting rooms, and on ferrys, it seemed that VIETATO FUMARE signs were almost universally ignored by someone. As far as I could tell, that was really Italian for either: no chain smoking, only employees may smoke here, or only 20% of the people in this room can smoke at any one time.

  2. Easily one of the more popular brands of cigarette I saw was Marlboro, FWIW.

S’trewth! Europeans (and probably Asians) laugh at Americans for our non-smoking policies. Personally, I think this is one of the areas where the U.S. really leads the rest of the world. London was a little better last time I visited, and you could occasionally find a restaurant with a non-smoking table wedged right in the middle of all the smoking ones. But in the hinterlands? Or Scotland or Wales? Forget it! My Mom has bronchial asthma (from being married to a smoker), so we have a helluva time finding any restaurant we can eat in.

I am told that when you land in Japan, they actually force a cigarette into your mouth and hold you down while they light it.

“Kids wanted to be like John Wayne or Norma Desmond, so they smoked to emulate their heroes.”

—[wonderful mental image of a gaggle of ten-year-old girls gathered around in the schoolyard, dressed up like Gloria Swanson, waving their jeweled cigarette holders around and bellowing, “I AM big—it’s the pic-chas that got small!”]

I smoke. I like smoking. I don’t like people whining when I smoke in public. I loved Europe when I went there because lots of people smoked and didn’t seem to mind if I did.

The art was cool too.

I can vouch for Spain. Spanish people smoke while they’re brushing their teeth. When I flew there last month the Passport Control was smoking. It isn’t at all uncommon to see people smoking on the Metro, in department stores, you name it. And yes, there are “prohibido fumar” signs in many of these places, and yes, people just ignore them.

Here in Ireland it’s a bit stricter in that there are actual non-smoking tables in restaurants and I don’t think anyone could get away with smoking in the Marks & Spencer, but it’s still tolerated much more widely than it is in most of America.

It seems that it’s very common. When I went to my five-year high school class reunion a while back, I was amazed at how many people were smoking, especially since I went to high school in Minnesota, where smoking is almost illegal :). Many of these people were women who, as far as I could remember, didn’t smoke in high school. Turns out that they had all gone to Europe via various study-abroad programs in college, saw all the people smoking, and decided to give it a shot so that they could look more worldly. Apparently, study abroad makes you dumber, not smarter.

I put in a request that the next reunion be held outdoors. Sheesh!

When I was in high school in the early 80’s, my German teacher told me that she had recently been home to Germany, and being used to living in Australia, she lit up on the street. In no time at all, a passing truck driver yelled “prostitute!” through the window as he drove by. According to her, women only smoke indoors there.

When I was in Vietnam, smoking was everywhere, but it seems to be an almost entirely male occupation. Similarly, among the large Vietnamese staff community at my workplace in Sydney, there is only one woman who smokes, and that is because she lived in Thailand for a long time. And every time she does it, the other Vietnamese girls give her filthy looks.

It was also a little odd to be in highly urbanised Hong Kong, and see all the old fashioned Marlboro Man" type billboards. Lots of rugged cowboy types, desert scenes, etc.

It’s true-- and very refreshing. The anti-smoking nazis here in the U.S. are completely out of control. There is a measure afoot in germany to remove the streetside cigarette machines, or so I’m told.

In Ireland, though I sa numerous government-sponsoed advertisements to discourage smoking, everybody seemd to be smoking like chimneys. Americans who expressed displeasure were politley dismissed (the general reaction was “if you damn Yanks cared so much about your health, you wouldn’t all be so fat”).

OOH YEAH. Whenever I travelled to Europe I loved being able to smoke in stores, trains, airports…ooh yeah. Turkey is great, you can smoke anywhere. Most of Europe IIRC has put the kibosh on smoking in grocery stores, public transportation & department stores.

I grew up in Europe & the Middle East. I remember ashtrays in changing rooms, movie theatres…in university in Scotland we all smoked during lectures & class. I used to tend bar & chainsmoked while serving 100 customers an hour on busy nights.

Those were the days… :smiley:

Hehe. I love that!

I remember when I was visiting my sister in Wales about 3 years ago an old man was smoking on a bus right under the no smoking sign.
A couple of weeks later I was at an indoor record fair in Holland and people were openly smoking while flipping through the records and CDs.

I remember on both occasions being totally shocked because neither would ever happen or be allowed here in Canada. When I lived in the UK, other people smoking never bothered me at all. Having lived in Canada though, I’ve really learned to appreciate not having to breath other peoples smoke, so I really didn’t enjoy seeing such open smoking in Europe.

Having said that, everyone I know who smokes is very good when it comes to thinking about other people. They go outside to smoke and don’t force their habit upon other people.

Yeah, I saw that smoking was much more common in Europe than Canada. I started in Finland though, which didn’t seem all that much different than Canada with respect to smoking.

(Actually, the landscape and climate of Helsinki are very similar to those of the “Shield Country” of central Ontario, so in Finland I often felt like I was in an alternate-universe version of my part of Canada, where all the signs had been transmogrified into a strange language, public transit and the arts were supported, and the cities were of manageable size and more intelligently designed. I want to go back. But I digress…)

France was a different matter: though I don’t rememer anyone smoking on the Metro in Paris, there were lots of people smoking in the Gare du Nord. That railway station is a vast half-open space; the tracks dead-end in the station, and the concourse is built around the end of the tracks, open to the city air.

The smoking there just wasn’t particularly objectionable. And I say that as a person who strongly dislikes smoking. I might have felt differently if I’d been in some smaller smoky spaces. The only thing that really grossed me out was the use of the floors as a vast communal ashtray… :frowning:

About twice a week on the bus commute I take to and from Madrid, I have to ask the someone in the back of the bus to please stop smoking. I gave up on the roudy weekend night busses unless the smoker is right next to me…

Being an “outsider”, at first I felt like I should not say anything for fear of being tagged as an uptight imposing American, but after almost 10 years here, I don’t care about that anymore.

My family is full of smokers and I do have respect for their “choice”, but respect has to go both ways. The smell and the eye irritation that go with smoking is gross and that’s without getting into all health dangers and the like.

I agree that American’s lead in responsible smoking (and driving for that matter) and I think it should be more controlled here.

I think tabacco is basically just business and I can’t help but think that 99.5% of smokers don’t enjoy their addiction and are suckers for the quick fix they get.

Norway has relatively strict smoking laws. It’s the enforcement that’s spotty, mostly in the restaurant business. Trendy places are the worst, since young Norwegians are horrible “social smokers” - i.e. lots of people only smoke at parties or only on Saturday nights, somehow managing to keep the nicotine monkey off their backs the rest of the week. I know this shouldn’t be possible but I’ve seen it happen… Anyway, this means the trendy places tend to ignore the smoking laws. The restaurants and cafes that attract a different market share, like families or older professionals or pretty much anybody except the trendies, are much better at maintaining separate smoking and non- sections, and in some cases ban smoking altogether.

Public transportation is blessedly smoke-free, except for long distance trains where people are generally good about sticking to the smoking compartment when they want a puff. This is terrific for me because flodjunior used to get terrible eczema if he was in a smoky room for long… he’s grown out of it now, thank goodness.

The OP:

Well, Scandinavian (most certainly Danish) laws on product responsibility are founded on different principles than the American ones.

I know that the Danish courts has tossed one case, in effect saying: “Mr. Smoker, if you choose to smoke, you choose to run the risks. If you didn’t know the risks, you could have looked them up. And if you couldn’t assess the risk - for lack of good research before the 1960s, say - well, you still decided to roll the dice without knowing the risks, didn’t you ? Next case.” - or something similar.

Ads on TV wasn’t introduced in Denmark until - what, 15 years ago ? - with definite rules against tobacco ads and with everybody knowing that smoking was bad for you. Even posters and magazine ads operate under strict rules.

That being said: The further North you move in Europe, the stricter the rules (of all kinds) are adhered to, as a rough guideline. Danish public transportation is smoke-free except for the smoking compartments in trains - and they’re under consideration now, of concern for the railroad employees.

S. Norman

I only really noticed people smoking in the UK when I came back from Australia, where anti-smoking rules were a lot tighter. Now it really bothers me when people smoke next to me in a restaurant.

Smoking is banned from the underground in London (after the King’s Cross fire), and is restricted to designated carriages on overground trains.

  1. Having lived all over the place I can vouch for the fact that the Dutch seem to smoke more than almost anybody else, on a par with the French. In Germany there is little restriction on it in public places and none in private, but awareness that it bothers some people is growing. In France restaurants are now obliged to have seperate non-smoking sections, but that regulation is often flouted as many restaurants are so small that they litteraly cannot have a seperate section so they go the way of smoking everywhere rather than no where. And anyway, as any Englishman can tell you: sheesh, they’re French, whaddaya expect?.

In the UK smoking is allowed almost anywhere unless marked otherwise, including eateries. A notable exception is public transport, especially the tube in London. It is totally forbidden there, but only indirectly for health reasons. Several years ago there was an underground fire at Kings Cross in which a number of people died. It was shown that the fire was started by a smoking ciggie butt which had fallen under an escalator. Hospital lobbies are generaly non smoking areas.

  1. Where is the militant European anti-smoking crusade…?
    I’d venture that it isn’t any inate lack of healthyness, rather it is the absence of legal system that makes class action lawsuits with breathtaking punitive damages possible. Further (and highly speculatively) there is no culture of seeking redress through the legal system in general in Europe. Just because somebody has suffered harm doesn’t mean that they are entitled to compensation, especially not for something that anybody with half a brain knows is dangerous. But that’s more of a IMO.
  2. Why don’t teens make the proper connection between inhaling smoke (from a fireplace, for example) and inhaling it from a small controlled fire called a cigarette?

Well, European teens do understand, they aren’t simple, but starting smoking as a teenager has nothing to do with being healthy, its about being cool etc, same as everywhere else.

  1. Kids wanted to be like John Wayne or Norma Desmond, so they smoked to emulate their heroes. Any truth to that?

Is there anywhere that kids don’t want to emulate their heroes?