It’s been a lovely trip. We hiked in the Austrian Alps, swam in the Baltic sea, and enjoyed the joyful chaos of Fête de la Musique in Berlin.
Despite these beguiling adventures, I remain puzzled. You seem to have given a full monopoly of clear outdoor air to the smokers. Cigarettes still rule your world. For someone under the age of 60 to have fun outdoors, secondhand-smoke comes as the main course.
Even in Iceland’s lovely airport, there was an outdoor smoking quarters. Whither, I ask, is the nonsmoking section, where one can drink in the crisp Icelandic air sans smoke? While I’m stuck with a four-hour layover, I would love to enjoy the fresh air you have to offer, even if I don’t leave Keflavik International Airport. It would be so simple, so forward-thinking, to have a nonsmoking outdoor area, to just enjoy the air. Let’s get on that one.
I keep on hoping that with the 2014 EU Directive on Tobacco, that Europe will decide that incentivizing addiction just weakens the character of its peoples. But here, three years later, there’s no improvement, from my subjective experience. In Switzerland, the smoking epidemic seemed even worse.
While EuroMonitor 2015 says that smoking in Switzerland is decreasing, to 25% (1 out of 4 inhabitants), in transit zones such as train stations, aire libre cafés, and popular outdoor haunts, it feels higher. The Swiss government’s acceptance of smoking by providing smoking spots everywhere is indicative of not really understanding the nature of the beast. They might as well provide regular places to do other drugs too, as at least those other drugs may not harm others the way that smoke does.
Of course, the butt of the joke for an American is that Europeans often chide me for the US ethos of individual freedom and our deleterious trigger-happy gun rights, yet many Europeans regularly dismiss smoking as harmless to self and other. They simply are undereducated. The governments of Europe still allow billboards and advertising, and tobacco imagery is rampant. Prohibiting such bald entrees shoving their addictive cancer-causing products into everyday culture, combined with a strong denormalization campaign stigmatizing smoking could be a powerful countermeasure to produce major social and behavioral change.