International smoking news roundup

While we are putting the finishing touches on a discussion of the press release out of Star Scientific on their reduced nitrosamine smokeless product, here’s some of the more entertaining (and exasperating) developments in the world of smoking.

First of all, out of Spain, two stories.

The first out of Time Magazine reports on the resistance to the new smoking restrictions on bars with some owners posting “smoking allowed” signs, others working to form an organization to counter this threat to their livelihoods, and in one case, a restaurateur providing a free drink to anyone needing to go outside to grab a smoke.

The second story is a rant by a Brit who used to enjoy the previously less fettered society and now rues a country taken over not only by his fellow countrymen but more than suspects that the changes in the law were to cater to the same healthist Brits he went to Spain to avoid. It is titled appropriately Whatever happened to my Spain?

I obviously had not noticed the sign on the door so I extinguished my cigarette and asked her why. Her answer really angered me, first because it had always been one of my favourite restaurants, and second because I knew that both she and her late husband were also smokers. She told me that of late the restaurant had seen a large amount of trade from English customers and it was they, she insisted, who had pressurised her into going smoke-free. Needless to say, I have never been back to that restaurant, from that day to this.

What was happening to “my Spain” I asked myself? What will the English be insisting on next? No Spanish food because it contains too much garlic, maybe? Or how about no Spanish music? I mean, do we really want their mumbo-jumbo? Yes, we bloody well do. Well, I certainly do. I want Spanish music and Spanish food and the Spanish language, which I think more Brits should learn a little more of. And I want Spanish traditions such as spending hours chatting, drinking and smoking in little local bars and restaurants, long into the night.

And in Bhutan, supposedly ruled with an eye to the happiness quotient, dogs are being trained to smell out tobacco in people’s homes. This is part of the country taking steps to go entirely tobacco free. The Prime Minister’s justification for the move, which he says is not draconian, is that tobacco “is no different from psychotropic drugs, for which the penalty in certain countries is death”. Well, if they kill people for drug use in other countries, it can only mean that those drugs are really bad, and not much that wrong with killing people.

Though you can smoke in your home in the Netherlands, a peachy little informer culture is being fostered by local anti-smoking groups. I suspect that there are few in those groups who lived through the war years.

-Paul L. Bergen

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