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 Thenews.pl 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.