7 februari 2012

Smoking elephants in Austria

Photographer Nick Brandt's image of a smoking elephant in his collection 'On this earth, a shadow falls'.

'You know what?', said my colleague Lynn today, 'I couldn't sleep last night because I stank!'

Now this might be a strange thing to say, but not once you understand the context. The evening before we had been out to dinner in a local restaurant here in Austria - called the Elephant.

Although Austria is a member of the EU, it apparently hasn't applied all EU regulations as yet. One of them is smoking in restaurants. The air and walls of the Elephant were thick with smoke and we reflected over how quickly you get used to environments that are smoke-free. It wasn't that long ago in Sweden and many other EU countries that you could also smoke indoors. But since this has been abolished, no smoking has quickly become the norm. And you only realise that you have adapted to the changed norm when you are confronted by a place where the norm is different.

Like Austria. Like smoking indoors. Like being so smelly that the smoke smell lingers in your clothes, hair and skin for hours afterwards and makes it difficult for you to sleep.

But will Austria fall into line like the rest of the EU?

Well, according to Wikipedia's list of smoking bans, Austria has in fact implemented several laws which limit or outlaw smoking in certain areas. Smoking is prohibited in all offices with certain exceptions such as bars, discos, restaurants etc. If all employees agree on allowing smoking in a work place, smoking may continue.
As of January 2009, a new law was put in place which mandates all restaurants, bars, discos and pubs larger than 80m² to introduce smoking rooms and non-smoking rooms. Below 50m² the owner may opt to either be a smoking or non-smoking place, between 50m² and 80m² there is an option under certain circumstances.

The smoke-free law has however encountered controversy initially, as well as inconsistent enforcement.

As we discovered last night in the Elephant.


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