Monday, 15 March 2010

Hack, hack, splutter, splutter

To say the Bosnians are a nation of smokers is probably an understatement. The Bosnians are a nation of enthusiastic smokers. Everyone smokes. Everyone. I can count on one hand the number of Bosnians I know who don't smoke.

It isn't so bad in the summer, everyone spends all the time outdoors so, fag ends and cigarette packets detritus apart, you don't notice it so much. But in winter, when everyone is inside with the windows tightly closed, oh lordy me, it is awful. The Bosnians smoke everywhere, restaurants, offices, buses, bars, cafes, you name it. People look in amazement when I ask them to not smoke inside our house but to go outside for their cigarette. The Americans and Europeans amongst you have probably forgotten what it is like to walk into a restaurant and be hit by a wall of cheap cigarette smoke and how horrible it is to eat your meal whilst also breathing in the fumes of the smokers next door to you. It is so ingrained, so presumed that you will be a smoker, that one friend of mine was given this piece of post-natal advice by her doctor 'Try not to smoke for 10 minutes before and after feeding your baby'.

Now the Bosnians know that smoking is not good for you and that it is an unpleasant habit for those of us who aren't smokers. But much like 1970s Britain, that is just seen as tough luck on the non-smokers. There are some no smoking areas. The boys' nursery is mainly non-smoking (but there is still quite a bit of puffing going on in the offices behind closed doors). The Mercator shopping centre (but you can smoke in the cafes there). Some offices, but not many. I can't think of any others.

I the 2 years we've been here, I've sort of got used to it. That isn't to say that I don't notice it anymore, because I do, especially in the winter, but that I expect it and am ready to deal with it. Which is why I was surprised to see this headline saying that the Croatians are bringing in a smoking ban in bars with effect from April 9th. The Croatians love their smoking as much as the Bosnians do  (actually the whole of the Balkans love a good cigarette moment). The timing of this ban is clever. The weather is improving and most people will be able to sit outside and smoke so it won't really bite until the winter hits. But it does show that the Balkans are changing. Croatia, being the most European looking, is the first to move. The others will follow. They will have to.

And whilst most Bosnians roar with laughter at the thought of a smoking ban, there are signs of change. The other day I went for a meeting, myself and 3 other Bosnians. Not one person in the group had a cigarette. I had to check I was still in the right country. I was. It was the first time I had ever had a meeting with more than one Bosnian that hadn't involved a cigarette. I know more non-smokers (and ex-smokers) here than I ever did before. As I say to the Bosnians who say 'we'll never have a ban here', we never thought we would in the UK either. But we do, and it will happen in the Balkans too. Maybe not tomorrow, but it will.

21 comments:

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Sounds very much Spain was before they brought in their no smoking laws, which are about to be updated again this summer to a total ban on smoking in public places. Currently you can still smoke in bars, it depend on how big the place is (ironically, the smaller it is the more likely it is that you can smoke!)and if food is served.

I remember buying a chest freezer in an electrical shop and some bloke resting his fag on it's lid whilst he stuck his head in a nearby washing machine...

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

I've always hated cigarette smoke so when the ban came in here it was fantastic. Mind you, we stayed at a hotel once near Newcastle where all the smokers congegated outside so the smoke and the bloody noise of them all talking drifted up to our room!

Chic Mama said...

How awful, I couldn't bear it. Funny I was thinking only the other night how lovely it is to go to a restaurant and not have people smoking around you. I hope it doesn't take too long to come around to Bosnia. x

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I hadn't realised how great the ban has been in the UK what with not having had a social life for the past 3 years but went out on Friday & noticed there was no fug of smoke

If France & Italy can bring in a ban I reckon Bosnia must be able to

London City Mum said...

I had the exact same thought as Chic Mama re going to a restaurant and no longer having to ask for a 'non-smoking table'. Or going for a drink after work and no longer reeking of fag ends when you got home.

Re Italy: the ban is in place but the counter-effect has been that when you walk down the road (the infamous 'passeggiata') you feel like you are in a smoke tunnel with every Tom, Dick and Harriet puffing away, and have to be careful to avoid lit cigarettes brushing against your clothes when it gets crowded.

LCM x

Laruca said...

What still strikes me in Bosnia (having been there for a year now) is the attitude to smoking in front of children - it's just not an issue, parents bring children to smoky restaurants and smoke at the table (perfect example - the BBI centre food court). But I guess it used to be like that everywhere at some point.
I don't completely get how the EU smoking ban law works, but as far as I understand, it does allow some wiggle room. In Romania for example smoking is banned in public buildings, but when it came to bars and restaurants they had the option to either be smoking or non smoking (the previous law asked for non smoking areas to be available in every establishment). The result of that was that bigger restaurants (chains in particular) could afford to be non-smoking, while bars, clubs, etc, could not afford to alienate their clientèle and became 100% smoking..

Susie said...

I hate smoke and have a hard time breathing around it so feel for you.

Here in Israel also used to be a lot worse and laws were passed here as well. A lot better than it used to be. The whole ER I work in used to reek of smoke from the staff room-now the smokers spend way too much time outside smoking though.

30 minutes is not enough-smoke stays on your clothing and body for at least 6 hours. So if you smoke outside and then come in and hold your kid, they are smoking.

Modern Dilemma said...

Oh yucky yuck smoke smell. Fingers crossed for a ban coming your way soon too!

MD x

Mwa said...

I love all the smoking bans. I noticed such a huge difference going into one of my favourite bars to have a snack the other day. Smoke and food really are horrible together if you're not a smoker.

deer baby said...

How awful. You sort of forget about it here how it used to be - smoking on the tube, on buses, in cinemas. It's so nice not to have your clothes stinking of smoke when you go out. Having said that, I live behind a pub which was nice and quiet before the smoking ban came in - it's got a nice garden. Now everyone goes out there and it makes it really noisy. Oh well. Can't have everything.

Owen said...

If Spain can do it, Bosnia can.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Well, sorry to bear a cautionary tale, & I realise I AM talking abt Anarchic Albania, BUT the Albanian govt introduced a complete ban on smoking in public places, DESPITE The fact that EVERYONE here smokes, just like in Bosnia. Every restaurant, bar, cafe has a no smoking sign. they gave up after a few mths. nobody seemed able to enforce it, & waiters seem reluctant to. Offically it still stands but is not enforced anywhere. You can't even complain, you just get a shrug! it just didn't work, because too many people smoke,so no one is interested in a ban!

nappy valley girl said...

The smoking bans have made going out so much more acceptable in the UK - it seems funny to think what we put up with before. (Although my sister has a theory that pubs now stink of wee and toilets, whereas before we couldn't smell it through the smoke...). I do hope it will eventually come to Bosnia. They must be facing massive health issues.

Metropolitan Mum said...

Sound advice form the Doctor. Haha. He had to be joking!!

Heather said...

oh ick, i feel for you! I had forgotten how awful it used to be to walk into places that reeked of smoke and the fact that you had to wash it out of your hair! eeew. Here's hoping the ban comes in soon for you. It will be interesting to watch the reactions and how well it works for a nation so 'into' smoking.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

VBC - sounds Bosnian to me! Happens here all the time.

Trish - We haven't really been in the UK much since the ban came in, but I've heard other stories like this too. Oh well, can't win them all.

Chic Mama - it will take a while, but it will happen. Most people here think that it will never happen, but it will.

Muddling - Exactly! It is not as if they are the only country that is found of a cigarette.

LCM - That would be the same in Bosnia, especially in the summer!

Laruca - is it a year already! I still find it shocking how people find it acceptable to smoke, with abandon, around children.

Susie - as a non-smoking I always wanted to have an 'as if' cigarette break. Didn't seem fair they could spend half an hour having a gossip and I was still working!

MD - or come back to England, our preferred solution to the problem.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Mwa - smoke and food are grim companions indeed.

Deer Baby - Coming to Bosnia has, in many ways, made me realise how much England has changed in the last 30 years or so.

Owen - exactly. But the Bosnians don't see that... yet.

Paradise - I think Bosnia would be a bit like that, but there are signs - some people are quitting. I think they will have a ban here eventually.

NVG - I've heard that theory as well. I hate to think about their health problems, state health care too...

MM - afraid not!

Heather - It won't come in before we leave, but I reckon a few years, especially if they move closer towards Europe!

elvedina2006 said...

Smoking is one thing I don't miss about Bosnia. The worst thing is poisoning the children that have no choice. Here in US I know Bosnians that spend $400 a month on cigarettes. Every time after their visit I have to wash my curtains but if I told them they cannot smoke they would probably not come over. When I was at the hairdressers in Bosnia a girl was explaining to me how she red ("in a book") that smoke is actually not harmful to unborn babies....
So I just stopped arguing and nodded.

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