08 September 2006

Germany: Smokers Paradise

Sorry to offend anyone out there, but I think smoking is a disgusting habit.

It's a drug, I know, it's addictive. I've been pretty lucky never to have been caught in it's trap. Sure, as a teenager, I'd tried it a few times (ah, peer pressure), and a few years ago used to take a cigarette occasionally after quite a few beers, but no more. It never latched on, got its hooks into me, but obviously for some reason others are susceptible.

But still the way I see a lot of smokers behave does quite annoy me sometimes. It seems to me like they don't believe that passive smoke is a health risk to people they come into contact with. And living in Germany means it's even worse. With one of the highest smoking rates in Western Europe, practically nowhere is safe from them (how do you think all those Europeans women keep their slim figures, nicotine and caffeine). Plus most of them see no problem in dropping butts anywhere, not thinking about putting them out then depositing them in bins, just have a look around any bus or tram stop, and that's the majority of the litter.

Having been back to Ireland a couple of times since they introduced a blanket ban in all work places, I think it's a great thing. Before the ban came in I was sceptical; I just accepted smoking as a part of going to pubs, nightclubs and restaurants (growing up in Ireland, when I was young, it was generally accepted that smoking happened everywhere), and assumed that it would be unenforceable. I had been to Canada before, and had been to a few smoke-free pubs, which I thought was the way forward; if there was a demand for it then they would exist was my reasoning. It worked in Canada, since generally north Americans are more health concious and pro-active than the irish. But in Ireland there seemed to be no sign of it happening, it would be committing commercial suicide. There needed to be a shove from government to make it happen.

The resistance of the German smoking lobby has been applaudable (matching that of CIE in denying carbon dioxide is harmful). It will be a long time before Germany sees a full ban in public places, but these days I try to go to the few restaurants in Munich that offer a smoke free environment when I can. Some things to look forward to when moving away from here:

  • coming home after a fews drinks not reeking of smoke
  • going to a disco and not risking getting ciggie burns on my favourite shirt
  • enjoying a meal without smoke wafting into my face