Yuck! Smoking in Europe

August 03, 2010

smoking in Europe, Yuck!

I love Europe and I love Europeans, but one thing I just do not get is the endless ignorance about cigarette smoking. Even worse, how unaware they are about how bad second hand smoke is around kids. It is not uncommon to see tons of people smoking around babies and children.


This is just something one does not see much in areas that I lived at in California. Most smokers in California have become aware that they are harming others with their second hand smoke so most educated people would not think of doing it around children. I am really surprised that they do not do more to educate people about the harms of cigarette smoke in Europe.In Germany, there are still road signs advertising cigarettes.

People walk baby carriages while smoking, pick up their kids from school while smoking, bring kids in smokey bars and restaurants ( I know there are bans but many do not seem to pay attention to them) and there were always tons of nurses etc outside of the hospital in Austria that I was in, smoking away on breaks. It often makes me feel like I'm in a time warp as the dangers of cigarettes have long been proven.


One does adjust to it to some extent and we avoid it as much as we can, but I must  admit this is one area that Europe is far behind in ( or at least compared to California as perhaps there are some areas in North America that are just as bad).Tobacco kills one person every six seconds so it is beyond me why there is not more education for Europeans about this deadly habit. There seems to be a decrease than when I first visited Europe in the seventies, but it is still horrible here. Many smokers here do not believe smoking is harmful so part of the problem is education. I am amazed at how tolerated it is even amongst non-smokers.

What are your thoughts on European smoking? Why is  there  not more social pressure, education and social support to help more people quit this deadly habit?

« previous | | next »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Yuck! Smoking in Europe:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Miguel Marcos

I see it as an analogue of the gun issue in the States. In Spain, smokers couch the argument in terms of the "freedom" to smoke. Smoking, I think, is still a holdover, at least here in Spain, because having a drink in a bar is such a commonplace and often family-oriented acivity. Alcohol and cigarettes have always been best of friends.

The biggest mistake made here in Spain was opting for that stupid law allowing bar and restaurants larger than a certain size to have smoking sections. In Italy they simply barred it altogether. They're now proposing barring it completely here.


Oh boy, I have suffered through this and wondered myself! And it is worse in Asia, India as well. Now that you have reminded me of this problem, I am now wondering how I am going to cope with our year long sabbatical. I do think many younger generations are being better...the educated ones probably don't smoke. But again, in public transportation bus stops and such, I have faced huge amounts of smoke in Southern India. Hoping Bangalore would be better....but who knows!!

I remember Paris and Italy to be the worst. Do not remember such an issue in Scandinavian countries but I might have been so distracted with the beauty around me....:). I remember UK to be an issue in certain places as well.



Miguel - Yes, that all makes sense. I do often here talk about "freedom" when it comes to smoking, but it's strange that many do not know the facts like how harmful second hand smoke is and how vulnerable children are to it.

Most seem totally unaware not only in enclosed spaces, but even outdoors that they are inflicting on others, including vulnerable children and babies. The better educated folks are, the less they smoke, thus education is so important.

I don't blame the smokers, but the tobacco companies who make cigarettes so addictive and governments who don't do more to help their cigarette addicted people . ( Makes me always wonder how much money the tobacco companies are giving to the politicians in charge of such things).


Subadra - Yes, sadly the high level of addiction of cigarettes,the lack of education, the aggressive nature of money-hungry tobacco companies makes it a hard issue to conquer, but it can be done.

We're headed to Asia too and I worry about how bad it will be there as I've heard the stories. It is really a tragic story as anyone who has seen the results of years of smoking can attest ( lung cancer etc). It is also a burden to the health system so costs everyone.

We have actually been to places where they smoke on the bus...yuck! Luckily that is illegal in most of Europe.

Yes, some younger people, especially EDUCATED people, do not smoke in Europe.

Education is one of the best ways to lower smoking rates. There is simply not enough education or speaking up on this matter in Europe ( and I assume other areas as well like Asia).

We found Scandinavia better too about smoking, but there are smokers there too. We've found no where in Europe as anti-smoking or with as few smokers as our area of California ( where it is very rare to see a smoker today in public areas).

It is a huge, world wide problem and the tobacco companies continue to do whatever they can to keep spreading it to make themselves wealthy. I think the governments that don't help educate their people are probably getting lots of payola from tobacco companies. Cigarettes are more addictive now than heroin.

You will find a way on your travels, like we have. We avoid it as much as possible, still I regret that my daughter has been more exposed to the harms of second hand smoke here MUCH more than she would have been had we never left California.

The good news is I doubt if my child will ever smoke as she hates this sad and disgusting habit as she has seen first hand how destructive it is.

I feel sad for the people addicted to cigarettes and all they harm by doing it. Truly amazing, how far behind in this area Europe is, including UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain etc.

Somehow I understand the high smoking rates more in Asia and Africa ( although it is equally tragic) but find no excuse for Europe to be this bad and far behind as they have the resources to get it under control. Perhaps in time.

Nadine Touzet

I couldn't agree more... unfortunately, and government bans are not helping either, except that it's sometimes nicer to breathe inside public buildings, than outside! Try to have a nice al fresco meal outside a restaurant in the summer, there's more passive smoking than anywhere else.
That said, smoking is an addiction, and as such there's not much you can do about it, until smokers themselves recognize it and deal with it.


It's not so much an education issue - just look at the cigarette packets with their enormous black signs about causing death etc. Many Europeans simply enjoy smoking, don't want to give it up and don't want to be told what to do by what they see as a "Nanny" state! And many a time I've heard: "Well, you've got to die of something!" I gave up smoking years ago and second-hand smoke does bother me a lot.


It is a shame people do not do a bit more research before publishing. Now I freely admit I don't know whether there are smoking restrictions beyond personal ones in California, it doesn't sound like it. In Norway you may not smoke in public buildings (including office buildings), trains, buses, restuarants etc.
This link -
Takes you to a list of smoking legislation for most countries in the world. Here you can find out exactly what the laws are in each European country, as well as for the US where the situation ranges from total bans to no legislation at all



I think quite a few Europeans see tobacco smoke as A.N. other form of environmental pollution -- notably, car exhaust fumes.

And, as such, in the open air, we tend to be less concerned about it, given smokers emit fewer fumes than (eg) cars.

It's been proven that significant quantities of second-hand smoke can cause harm.

Whether the quantities a child would absorb walking in the open air in a pushchair with a parent smoking somewhere in the atmosphere above their head is going to significantly impact on their life chances is, I think, a different question.

And I do wonder whether the child in the pushchair on the pavement is not, in fact, absorbing more carcinogens from the car exhausts than the single cigarette.

I think what I'm saying is that, compared to those 70s photos of Serge Gainsbourg puffing away with babies on his lap or in their bath, we've come a long way.

It's interesting to read your perspective on it, though...


Hi there! I just found your blog and I wanted to congratulate you ! This is a great plan you are into and thanks for sharing all the beautiful things you do with us.

On the smoking issue, let me first introduce myself. I am Greek and a smoker. So, I guess my insight might be interesting and valuable.

Smoking is an ancient custom -it is well known that Ancient Greeks and other people from other ancient civilisations (Chinese are known for their opium smoking) had smoking in their modus vivendi (as well as alcohol). Of course, back then, cigarettes were not a mixture of heavy chemical ingredients -it was pure tobacco, coming from mother nature, which is much less harmful.
In that sense smoking is part of our culture, at least in Europe and Asia, as far as I know. Smoking is very much related to art, philosophy and everyday life, sharing nice moments. Picasso, Churchill, Sartre, Beaudelaire, Brecht and so many others were heavy smokers. It is a pleasure after all, like alcohol, fatty delicious food etc. On the other hand, not all scientists agree on whether tobacco is worse than fat, sugar etc for human health. I know people who were heavy smokers and lived long without health problems. Of course, this is not a scientific proof, but it is a hint.
I believe that a cigarette is as harmful as a McDonalds burger or a fatty (but so delicious!) cheesecake piece. I also believe that CO2 emissions are much more harmful that both of them and influence the whole planet on a very large scale. I think that governments and policies should be more efficient against those. All I am saying is that this anti-tobacco mania is sort of missing the target.
On the other hand, it is very important that people enjoy their small "sins" without disturbing others. Mutual respect is the key word. If I want to smoke, I will not do it in the presence of a pregnant woman, a person suffering from asthma, or simply a person who I know that (s)he cannot stand it. But I would like to be respected with my "vice" and be allowed to enjoy it, as other people enjoy loud music (that is very disturbing for me) or alcohol (that can be very harmful not only for the person consuming it but also for those that will be faced with a drunken guy) etc. I would prefer that smoking and non-smoking restaurants and bars existed -and that children would not be allowed in smoking places, as they are not allowed to buy alcohol. In that way everybody would be happy and nobody would feel oppressed.

Thanks for reading me and thanks for your posts, they are really great! Keep up the good work! :)


Unfortunately, I know many intelligent and well-educated young people in Europe who smoke.

It's a habit, it's "cool", their choice, keeps the weight down, blah, blah, blah.

In the last several years I did notice a positive change in Europe - banning it, etc., so that's a good thing.


Nadine - Yes, the bans help a little, but it will take time. MANY years ago, the same things were said in Ca, but even 20 years ago, smokers were made to be aware that they were harming others by smoking, even outside. Slowly, things change.

Anna - Yes, I hear those kinds of things said regularly. Funny, because it doesn't have much to do with reality. That attitude proves that the education has not worked yet & why the thinking is so far behind that allows them to continue to harm others like you and me and worse, our children. It takes more than a warning on a cigarette pack, it takes HEAVY education to counter all the silly arguments of the addicted. Places where it is done well for years, things change.

Mark - thanks for adding that link! Yes, Scandinavia is better, but not anywhere near as good as my home area in Ca where it is extremely rare to ever see a smoker in public and where one would never experience it in an outdoor cafe. My guess is that the education about smoking is much better in Scandinavia than other parts of Europe. BTW, this is any kind of official document, just my humble opinion and experience based on living in Europe ( traveling to almost every country in Europe, usually for extended stays) and living in California.

Theodora - Funny, you sound like the "typical smoker in Europe" point of view and what I see as feeble excuses not based on the science.

It IS true that car fumes, particularly diesel is a horrible OTHER problem, but two wrongs don't make a right, nor are they related.

For instance, it happens that the three pics I used, there were NO CARS or VEHICLES around. There have been many scientific studies that show that 2nd hand smoke kills and harms EVEN OUTSIDE.

Babies and children with parents that smoke and are addicted to cigarettes, show LOTS of harm, EVEN when the parents NEVER smoke inside or near the child!

"HUNDREDS of studies have concluded that exposure to secondhand smoke can result in death. Over the past 20 years, scientific research has become even more clear, resulting now in the ability to pinpoint the effects of secondhand smoke not just on particular organs, but on various ethnicities, types of workers, and socioeconomic classifications."

"17,000 children under the age of five are admitted to hospital every year in the UK due to passive smoking. "

You and others certainly have the right to your opinion, but I"M not buying that the kids in these pictures are not harmed by the smoking addicted adult. That's exactly the education I'm talking about where everyone ( smoker and not) KNOWS that smoking harms others ( inside or outside).

Perhaps from a UK point of view, Europe has come a long way. BUT from a California point of view, Europe is FAR behind and has a LONG way to go on protecting innocent people and children from 2nd hand and 3rd hand smoking that harms and kills according to MUCH scientific evidence for MANY years.

It is truly shocking to see how very far behind Europe is and so sad that it IS often virtually impossible to sit outside in a restaurant and not be engulfed by harmful smoke. ( Ha & don't get me started on my 2nd pet peeve, deadly diesel fumes!)

That said, Europe is FAR ahead on hanging clothes out to dry which is truly shameful in California with all the sun they have.


Krot - Thanks for your kind words and comment. Welcome! I agree that pure tobacco is VERY different than what is in cigarettes today. I don't blame the smoker, as cigarettes today are more addictive than heroin and that is part of the problem. The tobacco companies & their powerful lobbies get much blame. Just follow the money!

The problem is today we KNOW a lot more about cigarettes and their deadly harm. People use to do a LOT of harmful things, but with education, usually ways can improve.

"it is very important that people enjoy their small "sins" without disturbing others"

I agree with this 100% and have no problem with people killing themselves through smoking as long as it does no harm to me, my child or other innocent people. Sadly that does not happen in Europe like it does in California, primarily because of education. Many Europeans are unaware of how harmful smoking is to OTHERS..even outside or even in a hotel room long after they have left.

There are people who still smoke in California, but for well over 20 years now, all of them are VERY aware that they must do it in a way that doesn't harm others that do not want to be harmed by it.

I agree that it would be fabulous to find a way everybody would be happy and nobody would feel oppressed!

Ivo Stoichev

Why do you think education has anything to do with it?
I know lots of people who are smokers and they can still tell you the implications of smoking, how hazardous it is, what diseases they might get ill from and so on. But it's a nasty habit and we smokers feel very crippled when someone tells us where to smoke and where not to. It's limiting to our freedom :)


Christine - I hear ya! People do tend to argue for their weakness often, instead of their strengths. It does take time as one can see by a place like California or even Sweden Europe where one finds it less.

The bans are important and slowly things change. More education, more pressure on the tobacco companies and more societal pressure from non-smokers who are harmed by all the smoking, would help a great deal though.


Ivan - Freedom is fine as long as smokers don't harm others while they kill themselves.

Education is key because stats have long showed that the more educated a person is, the less chance that they will smoke. Uneducated people smoke MUCH more than educated people.

You can tell by the smokers comments here that education is needed. Most do not seem to be aware that 2nd hand smoke ( even outside) harms and kills OTHERS. There have been hundreds of scientific studies that show that smoking not only harms and kills the smokers but OTHERS.

I don't blame the smokers as it is a nasty habit and the addiction level ( thanks to the tobacco companies who get rich off it) is worse than heroin.

Many would like to stop but find it very difficult once you grab that tiger by the tail. Most start smoking when they are very young and do not have fully realized awareness about the high addiction level.

Education helps young people from starting the nasty addiction in the first place.

Education programs can help individuals and families work together to heal this catastrophic problem.

Smoking continues to grow fast in this world in areas where there is the least amount of education. Tobacco companies grow rich on hooking the poor by pretending this is a glamorous habit.

Education as children and a constant pressure on society to do the right thing, saves millions in money and saves lives. Plus gives a better quality of life for ALL!


I couldn't agree more. It didn't seem to me so bad in England when I was there in Spring, but here, in Spain, it is a dreadful situation. I snapped a woman on the beach with her kid smoking just the other day. It is no excuse to make comparison with other pollutants or anti-social habits. Do two wrongs make a right? Education is key, I agree. Someone I knew really well died from cancer just a few weeks back. She had been a smoker most of her life ... until she knew she had cancer, in fact, and for a while even after that. It wasn't a pleasant death. Discussing it with a mutual friend, and smoker, the other week, I asked her to stop in so she won't end up the same way. This woman is a school teacher, and said "Oh it's ok, in my family we don't die from cancer, we die from heart disease". She had no idea that smoking affects this also!!! And so, if people insist on their liberty to smoke I insist that they pay their own medical bills when they get ill. Why should a part of my hard-earned wages go to a social security system which provides hospital care for them because they choose to be stupid?


Smoking is truly a disgusting habit. Like krot points out, it is a common custom and have been so for centuries but now when we know how harmful smoking is to our bodies, why not choose something healthier?

There's nothing "cool" about smoking. At all.


I can't speak on smoking in Europe, but you'll find the same type of situation in Japan, with people smoking in restaurants. Certainly does not make it appetizing to eat while you're chewing tobacco smoke at the same time!

Electronic Sally

I've been living around Europe the last couple of year, got used to it.They are trying to pass smoking bans all around.


Islandmomma - You are preaching to the choir! ;) It is really sad, isn't it?


Islandmomma - You are preaching to the choir! ;) It is really sad, isn't it?


Erica - I couldn't agree with you more and it is so refreshing to hear a European say that. Scandinavia is so much better than the rest of Europe, it makes me curious as to why. Education?


Brian - Yes, I hear it is worse in Asia, so I'm not looking forward to that when we get there. :(


Sally - The smoking bans are definitely a step in the right direction!


Fun story- when we were toddlers visiting Hungary my twin brother went up to one of the many men smoking and told him "bacsi meghalsz!", roughly translating into "sir, you're going to die!" My mom still has a laugh over that one.

Unfortunately I've noticed the USA (and California in particular) is the exception rather than the norm when it comes to smoking all over the world, not just Europe. Everyone knows it's bad for you of course, it's just still cool and isn't killing you NOW (whereas in the USA it's definitely perceived as a distasteful habit). Asia, Africa, Europe, everywhere the same unfortunately (NZ and Oz weren't quite as bad as I recall).

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner