Waiter, there’s smoke in my food
Austrians want to be able to eat out without choking on cigarette smoke, said Thomas Golser, but their own government won’t allow it. Smoking was supposed to be banned in restaurants and bars as of May 1, thanks to a law passed in 2015, when the center-left Social Democratic Party was in power. But after the elections last year, the far-right Freedom Party said it wouldn’t join a coalition with the center-right People’s Party unless the ban was dropped. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz needed Freedom’s support to govern, so he sacrificed his people’s health to secure power. Oh, sure, larger establishments will still be required to have a separate room for smokers. But those rooms generally have “either no door, a swinging door, or a door that servers simply leave propped open.” That means “everything from obvious fog banks to dangerous nanoparticles” wafts across to the nonsmoking area. In the past few weeks, more than 420,000 Austrians—nearly 5 percent of the population—have signed a petition calling for the ban to be upheld. It’s true that Austria has a high rate of smoking, and the habit is generally accepted here. Thirty percent of adults smoke. But that means 70 percent do not. Shouldn’t the majority rule? Especially when it’s our health at stake?