April 30, 2013 by fatcai
I remember the days back in Ireland when you used to be able to smoke in many many places where you would never dream of smoking now. I am too young for the really hardcore days when people still smoked on buses or whilst teaching nursery school kids the alphabet ( A is for alcohol, B is for boobies, C is for cigarette ) or you know while attached to an oxygen machine in the hospital. But I do remember the light stuff like bars, cafes, shopping centres etc. Oh the days of being 13 and going as a group of about 20 skater gothy types to our favourite cafe, ordering one hot chocolate between us and smoking our lungs out for the whole afternoon. Everyone was doing it, you couldn’t even see the people sitting at the table next to you. A magical misty carcinogenic fog.
They introduced the smoking ban in the Republic just before I turned 18 and the first trip clubbing down there was an experience and a half. Instead of coming home all smelling like stale smoke, we smelt of B.O and farts. A couple years later they introduced it in the UK which was very strange as the Brits generally don’t like to go along with wonderful EU ideas like the Euro and all that. ( We live on an island! We have almost TOO MUCH fresh air! Bit of carbon monoxide and tar won’t hurt!) However, they seemed to jump on the smoking ban bandwagon pretty willingly and for the people of Northern Ireland it was no great shock as we are used to having the good things in life banned to us by the folks in London…you know stuff like cheap car insurance, abortions, bars staying open past 1am….
Later that year I moved to Germany and learnt a lovely new word. RAUCHERKNEIPE. It was quite simple really, Germany had introduced the smoking ban and all the Germans had cried NEIN, small businesses had protested that they couldn’t compete with the big bars able to offer seperate smoking rooms and Germans really love their small businesses. This is the kind of country where people still make the seperate trips to Baker, Butcher, Greengrocer every day instead of the giant weekly trip to Walmart or Tesco or whatever your poison may be and so North Rhine Westphalia allowed certain pubs to be “Smoking Pubs.”.Which says a lot for German democracy and free speech really, If you want to smoke,you go to a smoking pub, if you don’t, you go to a non-smoking club. It is very logical. Leave the people free to choose for themselves. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, but so many of us still do it.(Oh yes, me!) Everyone knows that eating fast food everyday also isn’t the best idea, but so many of us still do it (not me!). Everyone knows that eating sushi in the middle of Siberia approximately a million miles away from the next fresh source of fish is probably not advisable but you know there will always be some idiot (oh yeah, me again..) who will just go for it anyway. And yes I do know my second hand smoke hurts others so it is kinda another ball park but just roll with me here.
Bavaria had an even more creative way of getting round the smoking ban. The ban doesn’t extend to private clubs so all the little clubs Germans like to be in like Ordnungclubs and staring-at-people-in-trams clubs or whatever could all still allow smoking in their clubhouses. The smokers of Bavaria saw this and thought something along the lines of, ” well now, smoking is probably more of a national pasttime than staring at people on trams, we should make a club for this!” And so about 78% (made up statistic) of pubs suddenly closed one empty smokeless evening and reopened again the next day completely transformed into a smoking club with everything looking remarkably the same apart from you had to pay 50 cents for a lifetime membership card incase anyone came to check, which I don’t believe anyone ever bothered doing.
So this is why smoking is in fact good for you. Well, not necessarily good for you, but good for the German psyche as a whole. See, the Germans in general aren’t a terribly creative bunch. You simply need to observe a couple of them trying to cross the street in order to realise this. A completely empty street. No traffic for miles. Or kilometres either for that matter. The German will walk calmly to the pelican crossing and press the button. And wait. And wait. And wait. Motionlessly. Patiently. For hours if it turns out the thing is broken. Staring straight ahead satisfied in the knowledge that they are being a Good German and following The Rules and not engaging their Common Sense, never mind their Creative Juices. But try to introduce a smoking ban and they are plotting away, using all of their big German brains to find loopholes and beat The Rules. Remarkable. Genius, The world famous German Efficiency at its best.
It could also be that the Germans are very against smoking bans as it seems that back in those grim old days that produced the much loved Autobahns and the world reknowned Volkswagen, the Nazis also introduced one of the first smoking bans in history. You know, because Hitler personally didn’t care for it and it hindered the ability of the Deutsche Frau to spawn more Aryan babies in Hitlers non-smoking image. Are the Germans now compensating for Nazi guilt by resisting modern day policies once associated with Nazism??? Meeehh…probably not.
Well anyway, tonight, 1st May at midnight North Rhine Westphalia is bringing in tougher anti-smoking laws and getting rid of smoking pubs, clubs, closing up the loopholes. The Germans don’t seem that concerned. A friend of mine asked me to go out partying tonight and I mentioned the fact that after midnight we wouldn’t be allowed to smoke anymore. (This is a friend of mine whose favourite party pasttime is staggering around drunk, waving his arms around, cigarette in hand, literally BURNING people. I have scars to prove it.) and he laughed. Nein nein nein he said laughing. No-one is going to enforce this. It’s not like at midnight they are suddenly going to come round pulling cigarettes out of people’s mouths, extinguishing them, clearing away the ashtrays, opening the windows and spraying body spray like their mum just arrived home unexpectedly. After speaking to a couple of other German friends about this, it seems the mood is pretty much the same. A general consensus that it is all too ridiculous and will just have to be ignored.
There is still one remaining loophole in the law though, Private parties and events may still be smoked at. So I am waiting to see every little corner pub come up with an exciting weekly programme of private smoking events. Or something similar.
We shall see what the genius Germans come up with next.
In the meantime tomorrow Germany is celebrating the annual Tag der Arbeit, Day of Work, by way of a public holiday and nobody doing any work at all. How can anyone fail to love this country?!