No smoke without fire

With the smoking ban in Poland having been in place approximately 7 months (since November 15th 2010), it’s an interesting time to consider smoking in Poland and whether the ban has made a difference, and the attitudes to smoking in general. What was most interesting to note was that the introduction of the smoking ban found reports that “31% of Poles supported the ban” when it was introduced. Some may see that as a positive, but it can also be seen that 69% either did not support it or were ambivalent. It’s quite likely that many who responded negatively were business owners that believed their business would be affected negatively by the ban.The main places which have been affected by the smoking ban are those locations such as restaurants and bars, and it has been interesting to see how bars in particular have tried to adapt. Examples can be found where smoking is seen to be acceptable if there is a separate smoking room (divided with a door). Another example experienced was attending a music gig in one of Krakow’s underground cellar bars, where patrons paid 10zl for entry to hear the music and accepted that smoking would be allowed in the area music was played. Thus, efforts have been made to circumvent the ban in innovative and sometimes improper ways. Many people tend to forget that smoking bans are normally enacted with employee health in mind, so those that need to work in such bars with separate smoking rooms still need to enter those rooms to work and clean, meaning the ‘value’ of the ban is minimal. While there are organisations such as Zakaz Palenia in Poland, they do not seem to have the same profile as ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) which work to educate and inform.

This comes against the background where Poland still has one of the higher levels of cigarette consumption and prevalence of tobacco consumption. Poland is 18th of 121 countries examined for the rate of cigarette consumption, with an average of 1,810 cigarettes smoked per person per year. While this does not reach the levels of Greece (3,000 cigarettes per person per year), Slovenia (2,530) and Ukraine (2,520) – it is still a significant enough level. This, when also combined with the prevalence of tobacco consumption statistics compiled by the World Health Organisation, make for poor reading. The WHO reports that the percentage rate of male smokers in Poland is 43.9% with female smokers making up 27.s% of Polands population. It should be noted of course that the rate for margin of error is reported to be almost 9% for both male and female percentage rates, so it could be possible that the actual rates are lower than expected. However, when 2 out of 5 men smoke cigarettes and almost 1 in 3 women, they are strong statistics.

While changing the habits of ‘experienced’ smokers is always a very difficult task, it would be hoped that discouraging younger smokers from taking up the habit would be the focus. It is worrying news then to hear that 63% of shopkeepers in Poland sold cigarettes to those under 18 years of age, in a test sample of 990 cases. With a fine of 500zl for each time a shop is caught selling to minors, it would seem that the punishment is not a warning, especially as the report on mentions that the majority of those working in the shops were also young and did not want to say no to those of their peers of the same age bracket.

One possible positive for the future is how electronic cigarettes (e-papierosy po polsku) are becoming more prevalent. These cigarettes are designed as a substitute for the real thing, which can then help in working towards quitting smoking, by possibly reducing the tobacco quantity in the electronic cigarettes. Another positive of them is that they are lacking in actual smoke, meaning that they are more safe for those in the vicinity and reducing the likelihood of suffering from second-hand smoke. However, despite the small improvements, it feels as though Poland has a lot of work to do, even with a smoking ban in place, to minimise the prevalence of cigarettes.

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11 thoughts on “No smoke without fire

  1. scatts says:

    I’ll give a hundred hours of community service to the first government that completely bans cigarettes and puts them in the same category as marijuana. I’ll give another hundred hours to first one to ban alcohol, by far a bigger problem than cigarettes to both people and state.

    In the meantime, so long as governments are happy to pocket the income from these drugs, I’m happy to use them, wherever I am allowed to do so and occasionally where I’m not.

  2. Jan says:

    ban on alcohol won’t work! As it has been proven numerous times in the past century in different countries. :) I think that thsame applies to cigarettes.

  3. odrzut says:

    Ban on drug X, where X is anything addictive, won’t work.

    Look at Netherlands on the one hand (where “soft drugs” whatever it means are legalized, and at USA during prohibition on the other hand.

    When you ban something addictive criminals are going to get the profits, and that’s the only difference.

  4. Paddy says:

    I have a friend who has bought one of these -ecigarette things. I tried it t’other day. The flavour was rather nice and reminded me of a shisha pipe.

  5. common cents says:

    Smoking in public in all cases with no exceptions endangers the safety and well-being of others and should be banned. Smokers’ rights end where my rights are taken away.

    If someone wants to drink, fine. If someone forces me to drink, that’s a problem. Same thing with smoking.

  6. Skoy says:

    Unfortunately, egoistic smokers don’t reason that way. According to them, non-smokers are not forced to stand in their vicinity (heck, the bus stop or train perron is large enough isn’t it!), just like one is not forced to go to the pub, or work in one for that matter. Pishposh!

    However, as someone already pointed out, a total smoking ban is maybe unrealistic. But at least ban it in places where there is someone else around, especially their own children *cough*, and actually enforce this ban for a change.

  7. Name says:

    In the UK we banned smoking in pubs ages ago, I agree with it.

    Some of the comments are a little over zealous though.

    “Smoking in public in all cases with no exceptions endangers the safety and well-being of others and should be banned.”

    Are you serious?

    You breathe in far worse things on the way to and way back from work everyday from Car Engines, you want those banning as well?

  8. Skoy says:

    Agreed, exhaust fumes from cars are not particularly healthy either. But it’s no reason to allow cigarettes in public, because cars are also polluting. One way or the other, cars or public transport are still a necessity for daily life. Cigarettes on the other hand are not.

  9. Cars are a necessity to a certain extent but not completely. To a certain extent, they are also an extravagence.

    In any event, their emissions can and should be controlled by laws in the interest of public well being. Why shouldn’t all cars be at least PZEV (partial zero emission vehicles) whereby most of the carbon monoxide is burned off?

    Overzealous would have been to call for the execution of smokers, maybe.

    Another reason to ban smoking in public places is that insurance rates and health care costs go up because of the harm smoking causes.

  10. It will take some time but soon I think Poland will feel the same way about smoking at Americans do. Less than 1/4 of my friends smoke, whereas when we were growing up, we pretty much all smoked starting at around the age of 10-12.

    I think part of the issue with smoking is that smokers, including such as my Wujek (Uncle) feel that their rights are being trampled over just because I don’t want myself or my children to get cancer. While they think they do enough to protect those around them, they don’t because first they cannot smell the smoke.

    Tobacco was for a while a very profitable agricultural business for the US but began waning in profits which is what, I believe, helped make it possible for all the bans we have here now.

  11. Name says:

    Looks like you have to work one hundred hours for Saudi Arabia… Good luck:-)

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