Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Where Can I Smoke?
An international survey of the cigarette scene.
It was a tough year for smokers. 2007 marked the onset of new restrictions on public smoking in dozens of nations around the world.
Contrary to popular belief, smoking bans are nothing new under the sun. Troubled by the rising tide of nicotine dependence among the common folk, Bavaria, Saxony, Zurich, and other European states outlawed tobacco at various times during the 17th Century. The Sultan Murad IV decreed the death penalty for smoking tobacco in Constantinople, and the first of the Romanoff czars decreed that the punishment for smoking was the slitting of the offender’s nostrils. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that any culture that has ever taken up the smoking of tobacco has ever wholly relinquished the practice voluntarily.
In order to sort things out, the BBC News Website, among others, recently compiled a chart of global changes in the climate for smokers. Herewith, a representative sampling:
In FRANCE, January 1, 2008, marked the day when cafes, bars and assorted French eateries were slated to go smoke-free, joining the existing ban on smoking in public buildings. However, in a gesture of Gallic tolerance, the government instituted a last-minute grace period, postponing the deadline 24 hours. French authorities are not expecting widespread civil disobedience among smokers and café owners--an optimism bolstered by a stiff fine of 450 euros ($660) for violations. (Most European restrictions allow for closed-off smoking sections with ventilation, something most bar and café owners say they cannot afford to build.)
GERMANY followed a similar path, when eight states, including Berlin, went smoke-free in pubs and restaurants on the 1st of January. Having passed legislation guaranteeing workers the right to a smoke-free workplace, German officials are less sanguine about the enforcement picture, according to the BBC report. German pubs bitterly fought the ban, reminding the citizenry that Hitler had wanted to ban cigarettes, too. The hard test will come in good weather, when the beer tents go up and the festivals begin.
THE UNITED KINGDOM has banned smoking in all “enclosed public spaces,” with on-the-spot fines of 50P, after a long and contentious debate on the subject of second-hand smoke.
Cafes and restaurants in FINLAND went smoke-free, along with many other European nations, on June 1, 2007. NORWAY has had a national ban on smoking in bars and restaurants in place since 2004, and SWEDEN followed in 2005. IRELAND has had strong anti-smoking laws since 2004, and the same is true of ITALY since 2005.
ESTONIA, LITHUANIA AND MONTENEGRO have smoking bans in place for bars and cafes. SPAIN made shops and offices smoke-free in 2006, but there have been boycotts, and enforcement is said to be lax. PORTUGAL observed the January 1 ban, but will let small bars continue to allow smoking if they choose.
THE NETHERLANDS—a country, like Germany, Spain and Greece, with a serious population of smokers—went all the way on January 1st, banning indoor smoking, but certain details remain unclear. How will cannabis coffee shops be required to deal with the restrictions?
INDIA has tightened smoking restrictions on public places in recent years, and has banned the sale of cigarettes to children. However, the BBC reports that a lack of money and resources mean that the smoking restrictions are only sporadically enforced. The same is true in IRAN, where restrictions on smoking in public buildings are widely ignored.
The UNITED STATES represents a confusing amalgam of state and local ordinances that vary widely and is the subject of bitter debate. New York banned smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants five years ago. California, with some of the most rigid anti-smoking legislation in the world, prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, enclosed workplaces, within six meters of any public building, and even on public beaches. Countless local, regional, city and state regulatory agencies continue to grapple with the issue.
VENEZUELA, another nation of heavy smokers, initiated a partial ban on public smoking in 2007. Restaurants and bars in ARGENTINA must now include no-smoking areas.
AUSTRALIA, which already had rigid no-smoking rules in place, from airports to restaurants, is considering a smoking ban at Bondi Beach, the country’s most famous stretch of sand.
In CANADA, British Columbia and Alberta joined with other provinces and banned indoor smoking in public places on January 1st, 2008.
In CHINA, the nation with more smokers than any other, the government undertook small-scale test bans last year in the cities of Guangzhou (Canton) and Jiangmen. Otherwise, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
RUSSIA remains a smoker’s paradise as well, with a comprehensive anti-smoking package passed by the Duma, but still awaiting implementation.
MEXICO has required separate smoking and non-smoking areas since 2004. Mexico City, with some of the highest air pollution readings in the world, began battling over a smoking ban in bars and restaurants last year, and the outcome remains clouded.