Feature

Smoking in public: Who else is ready to quit?

This should be interesting, said Sevim Song

This should be interesting, said Sevim Songün in the Turkish Daily News. With Turkey’s membership in the European Union still in limbo, hung up over such issues as women’s rights and the threat of Islamism, we Turks this week undertook a truly radical demonstration of our commitment to modernity: We’ve given up smoking in public. Sort of. Smoking will still be allowed in bars and restaurants for another year, and even then you’ll still be able to smoke in a private house, a nursing home, a prison, or a lunatic asylum. But in any other public structure with a roof—and, yes, that includes circus tents—smoking is now a crime, just as it is in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and most of the other leading nations of Europe. This gradual approach makes sense. Here in the land of the hookah, it would be asking too much to insist we “go cold turkey.”

Congratulations, said Emily Prucha in the Prague Daily Monitor. Ever since the European Union decided, narrowly, not to institute a continentwide ban on smoking, those nations that have taken it upon themselves to enact smoking bans have become the “‘in-crowd’ of EU member states.”

Here in the Czech Republic, polls regularly show most voters in favor of such a ban, and yet the parliament refuses to act, perhaps for fear of draining all the picturesque charm out of Prague’s atmospheric “smoky cafes and pubs.” Those fears are groundless. If such quintessentially cigarette-loving nations as Ireland, Italy, and France can enact these bans without surrendering their national identities, so can we.

Don’t do it! said Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent. The ban on public smoking here in Ireland has been nothing less than a “social calamity,” the horrendous scale of which is only now becoming clear. By forcing smokers to stand outside in the cold whenever they want a cigarette, the smoking ban has brought about the closure of literally thousands of traditional Irish pubs, as customers started drinking at home instead. Thanks to our “abominable and totalitarian smoking ban,” the old Ireland is gone, replaced by a flavorless and clean-living version of Norway.

Perhaps you should have fought harder, said Besar Likmeta in Albania’s Balkan Insight. When the authorities here tried to implement a public smoking ban last year, my fellow chain-smokers and I panicked. The appearance of No Smoking signs in our favorite cafes filled us with “apocalyptic fear” that we were being dragged against our will into the Brave New European World. A year later, however, Albania’s smokers have reached a neat compromise with the government on this fundamental, if admittedly not very healthy habit. The No Smoking signs are still up, but they’re so “nicotine-stained” as to be illegible.

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