28 November 2007

Almost tobacco-free

Good news for us fresh air breathers: non-smoking regulations are respected in most places in Rosario. Research conducted in May, in 34 enclosed public sites (bars, restaurants, pubs and universities), showed that 87% of them had a very good air quality, and that smoke-free rules were kept. The remaining 13% are mostly nightclubs, where controls are non-existent and self-restraint has apparently not caught on. People also smoke in university rooms during class.

I'm surprised at how people have become accustomed, in a matter of months, not to smoke in enclosed spaces. In a country where flaunting the law is done so casually, the degree of common courtesy shown by smokers even in places where no serious control is to be expected is astonishing, in a good way. Other people I've spoken to feel the same. This has to have an effect on the habit. Former chain smokers are now choosing to stay chatting with their families or friends at the table when they go to a restaurant, and only occasionally pop outside for a smoke.

The bit about the universities is depressing, though. I can more-or-less understand that you can't go around a nightclub telling people to put out their cigarettes — not in Argentina, not in the environment of most clubs. But in a classroom? And the worst offenders, I'm told, are the teachers. Of course, once the prof has lit up a cigarette, the students are likely to forget the law as well.

It's been a while since I last heard complaints from smokers. From time to time some politician or editorial journalist tries to make an issue of the alleged "freedom to smoke" that is being suppressed. But the dire consequences predicted by doomsayers ("People won't go to places where they're not allowed to smoke! The economy will collapse!") haven't materialized, and plain citizens who smoke are not demonstrating in the streets. Smokers by and large aren't mad at the law; if anything, a few I know are relieved — they don't want to quit but they've found a way to control their addiction.

I once heard a good analogy used to refute the "right to smoke" claim, even supposing secondhand smoke weren't an issue. Your right to smoke a cigarette next to someone in an enclosed place, the argument went, is about the same kind of right you have to let out a fart. Maybe it won't hurt anybody, maybe it's not anyone's business, maybe you should have the freedom to do what you want with your own body — but nobody else wants it around, and you're just nasty by forcing it on the rest of us.

2 comments:

  1. You know I got to see Chicago (my home town) enact a similar law about a year after Buenos Aires did? It was funny to see the same complaints from bar owners and restaurants that were made here. Also, it was nice to see Buenos Aires actually going ahead with the law even before a modern city like Chicago.

    I am starting to see more and more people smoke in the shopping malls though. It´s annoying when you see it, smell it, but it´s still a minority doing it.

    I hope we can keep it going.

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  2. I have to admit I feel really guilty when smoking in public places, or even the street. If I blow smoke in someone's face I automatically try to wave it out, which turns out a little akward at times.

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