European Travel for Smokers

I travel a lot for work and pleasure. Most of my travel is within Europe. I have twenty or thirty flights a year and twice as many train journeys. In the good old days which were not so long ago, being a smoker was not much of an issue when traveling. These days it can make things annoying.

For probably the first ten years that I was working and traveling a lot I could smoke on all the planes and trains I took. I am a nervous flyer (despite doing it frequently) so being able to light up while I was flying was nice and calming. Nowadays I don’t think there are any airlines in Europe which allow you to smoke. Most train services have forbidden smoking during the past ten years too, so for us smokers long journeys of any sort can be stressful and uncomfortable.

Even when you get to stations and airports the misery doesn’t always end. It can be really difficult to find a place where you are allowed to smoke.

Well I can understand that for non smokers being on a long journey in close proximity to people who are smoking must be horrible. I fully support their right to breathe smoke free air. But with all the modern technology available to us now surely it is possible to reach a compromise which serves both smokers and non smokers?

Well there is.

In some airports (for example Zurich and Vienna) there are cabins and larger rooms dotted around throughout the airport complex for smokers to use. They have special ashtrays and air conditioning systems which prevent any of the smoke or cigarette smell escaping into the common areas. My only complaint about them is that they can be a little bit too smokey and claustrophobic inside because they are so heavily used. More would be better. But they are proof that it can be done.

I think it would be possible to incorporate a similar sort of system on aeroplanes themselves. And I think there is money to be made if some airline tries it.

The reason I say that is that there is a fairly new private train service in Austria which operates between Salzburg and Vienna which has reintroduced smoking cabins on its trains which use a similar sort of technology to that described above. These cabins are heavily used and many people use the private Westbahn line in preference to the state train service mainly because they can smoke there. Again it is important to stress that the smoke from these cabins does not pollute any other part of the train.

The Austrian and Swiss state railways used to have smoking compartments on their trains but these have all now gone. Their smoking ban is a bit half hearted though and at least in Austria and Switzerland there are usually plenty of designated smoking areas in the stations and on the platforms. This is not so in Germany or Italy but people tend to smoke in the outdoor parts of the stations whether or not it is officially permitted. France has imposed quite draconian smoking restrictions in stations and public buildings generally but I have noticed more than once that people tend to ignore such restrictions when it suits them. Smoking is also forbidden on the train services of most of Eastern Europe but in the train stations any such restrictions are blatantly ignored.

When rules of this type are ignored I can understand that non smokers get angry. The point is that when laws are so draconian and go so far against the grain of what people think is reasonable, they will be ignored. On the other hand if the rules were made and enforced in such a way that was fair to both sides they would be complied with. It is a case of less is effectively more.

Britain has become a terribly unwelcoming place for people who smoke. London’s main airports (which are among the biggest and busiest in the world) are pretty horrible places for smokers. There is nowhere inside the airport to smoke. What few smoking areas there are, are all located outside the buildings, can take up to twenty minutes to get to, are very badly signposted and are generally wet, cold, windy and often smell of petrol because they tend be located next to car parks and bus stops. Smoking is not allowed on any British trains or anywhere on the stations which means you have to go completely outside the station to have a cigarette. This is very frustrating if you have a lot of luggage to carry around and twenty minutes to wait for a connecting train.

Ah well, at least America is worse!
Smokers should of course be considerate of non smokers and usually are. Consideration should work both ways though; especially in the often stressful activity of travel.

Cassie

 

 

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Marlboro = McDonalds?

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Marlboro, by Cassie

 

Marlboro are like the McDonalds of the smoking world! That is not as insulting as it may seem to those who, like me, are not big fans of McDonalds. What I mean is that just like McDonalds, where-ever in the world you may be with Marlboro you know what to expect.

When I first started smoking regularly while living in the UK I usually smoked Silk Cut or Rothmans (two brands that I still like). But very soon I started travelling, first as part of my university studies, then as an Au Pair and then and still now as a traveling teacher and sales person. In fact for most of my adult life I have been traveling around Europe sometimes spending almost every week in a different location. I am now based in Switzerland and it is great to have a real home base, but I still travel a lot for work.

I soon discovered that I couldn’t always find my regular brands  outside the UK, so I started experimenting and trying a lot of different brands in the countries I visited. Of course I discovered some brands I really liked, some of which I still smoke from time to time but I also discovered some brands which tasted horrible to me and that was literally money going up in smoke. I also found that even when I could find brands I knew they often tasted completely different in different countries. And so I started smoking Marlboro…

I had always been a bit anti Marlboro. I didn’t like their packaging or their advertising. There were all sorts of rumours about Klu Klux Clan connections, secret society affiliations and them just being a rather uncaring huge multi national company. And their cigarettes were everywhere so just a bit too popular and common for my tastes. Moreover, their taste got a bit of getting used to. British brands had quite distinctive tones of flavour I was familiar with and Marlboro in Europe at least had quite a different aroma, a little rougher and duskier than the cigarettes I had grown up with. But what I discovered over a couple of years was that whether I bought them in Spain or Germany; Austria or Italy they always tasted the same. And I liked that. During that time Marlboro became my regular brand and they have remained that way pretty much ever since. And I do like them.

I do still smoke other brands from time to time for different reasons and depending a lot on my mood, but Marlboro have become the benchmark for me by which I compare and judge other brands.

I mostly smoke Marlboro lights (or gold as we are supposed to call them now). I buy the regular size for the day time to smoke on the go in my fleeting break times or between meetings, and I buy 100s for the evenings when I have a bit more time to enjoy my cigarettes usually together with some wine or perhaps after a meal out.

Marlboro are reliable. You know what you are getting and they taste good. I don’t really care about the extra chemicals they are said to contain to help them burn more regularly and smoothly. They are quite tightly packed with tobacco and often seem to last a bit longer than comparable cigarettes as a result. That is good because the downside is that they tend to be one of the more expensive brands.

Anyway, I like them much more than I like McDonalds!

Parisienne

Parisienne

Parisienne, by Sophie

I am a patriotic Swiss girl so of course I smoke Parisienne!

Well actually I am not always that patriotic but I do like Parisienne and they were originally a very Swiss brand although I think they are now produced in Germany. They are the brand I have smoked most often and I still buy them quite regularly. Some people don’t know that Switzerland has quite a long and distinguished tradition in tobacco. With cigars especially Switzerland has some famous and well regarded brands. With cigarettes Parisienne are probably the best known Swiss brand; I know you can also get them in France, Austria and Germany but I haven’t seen them anywhere else.

I think they were the first brand I smoked regularly. When I was younger most people smoked either Marlboro or Parisienne. Those of us who smoked Parisienne thought of ourselves as a bit more alternative, less American and yes, perhaps a bit patriotic. The taste is quite similar to Marlboro but with a bit more flavour of Turkish style tobacco. I think the yellow, mild version are a bit weaker than Marlboro Lights but I prefer the Parisienne filters because in my opinion they let you suck the smoke in more easily. Sometimes I smoke the stronger red or black packet versions but they can be a bit harsh on the throat. Sometimes I like that though.

There have been some good advertisements for Parisienne which used to be shown in cinemas here. This one was directed by David Lynch and is, well,,, very David Lynch!

So when did we start smoking?

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Smoking is a funny thing. It is something which for most people you either do or you don’t. Rarely there are people who can genuinely say they are occasional smokers but mostly you are either a smoker or a non smoker. So for those of us who are smokers, what was it about those first cigarettes that we liked? Why did we continues with the habit while others didn’t? I guess we are supposed to say that we are some form of helpless and hopeless addicts but I have never felt that way. I am sure there is a degree of addiction but I think we started and continued smoking because we liked it… So how and why did we start actually?

CASSIE

The following is mostly lifted from an old blog post I made a few years ago.

Both my parents were occasional smokers although they seldom smoked much in the house. I always thought that I probably would start smoking one day but I wasn’t in much of a hurry about it. There was no taboo about smoking in my family, but my parents always advised that it would be better not to start. The only rule they made concerning it was a kind of age limit. “Once you’re sixteen you can make your own decisions about things like that; but not before…”

It all seemed quite reasonable and I was a fairly reasonable and well behaved daughter. However while I was 15, a lot of my friends started smoking and I felt a bit left out. They often offered me cigarettes and I always said no. It felt boring. The reason was not so much a feeling of obligation to my parents minimal rule, but more to do with vanity. I didn’t want to cough and splutter over my first cigarette in front of my friends. So one day I resolved that by the next time somebody offered me a cigarette I would be a proficient smoker!

One Saturday afternoon when my parents were out I went and bought a packet of Silk Cut (nobody in the shop questioned me as I could easily have passed for a couple of years older), took them home and started smoking. I didn’t cough nearly as much as I thought I might during my first cigarette when I was just taking the smoke into my mouth and blowing it out again. Twenty minutes later I had my second cigarette and this time practiced inhaling the smoke. I did cough a bit that time, but carried on anyway. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and sensation of smoking and the little nicotine kick that came with it. A couple of hours and about four cigarettes later I did begin to feel slightly sick and dizzy, but I didn’t mind. The following afternoon I went out for a walk and smoked a few more cigarettes. There was no sickness or dizziness and I genuinely enjoyed them. I was hooked.

During the next few months I smoked regularly when I was out with my friends. I wanted to tell my parents but felt awkward about bringing it up. I didn’t really want it to be a secret though so I started leaving half empty packets of cigarettes around my room and other places that my parents were likely to find them, hoping that they would bring the subject up. They never did.

Soon it was my sixteenth birthday. In the evening my parents took me out for a nice meal in a posh Italian restaurant. After the meal we ordered some more wine (technically in the UK I was still under age for drinking alcohol but I had been drinking wine with meals since I was about 12 and apparently the waiter didn’t realize I was only 16) and at that point my parents took out a packet of cigarettes and began to light up. This was my opportunity. I started looking in my handbag for my own cigarettes but they weren’t there. I must have looked flustered. Suddenly my Mum leaned across the table offering her pack of cigarettes and said “Do you want one?” as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “Emm…Yes please.” I replied a little nervously.

For the first minute or so I felt very self conscious smoking in front of my parents. But soon I relaxed and it felt normal. They had obviously known about my smoking for some time and had been waiting for me to say something about it. We joked about it. And as we sat there smoking and sipping wine I really felt as if something had changed. I was still their daughter and always would be; but now I was their grown up daughter and could relate to them in a new way. It felt good, and still recalls to me happier family times… Times when it seemed to me we were a happy and unbreakable little family unit. Sadly that unit fell apart a few years later when my father left us for another woman.

I have been a smoker since that time. The majority of my friends have always been smokers. Smoking has always been a social and personal vice that I have enjoyed. For the most part of the last twenty years smoking isn’t something I thought much about, it was just part of what made me, me; like dying my hair, having an interest in philosophy and the occult, having tattoos, hanging out with bands, enjoying breakfast in bed on days off… It is only in the last few years while smokers rights have been limited all over the world that my smoking has become something I am conscious of, and I suppose defensive about.

SOPHIE

Smoking was kind of the norm when I started. My mother was a heavy smoker who has since quit. My father only smoked cigarettes when he was stressed but often smoked cigars in the evening and at weekends. I liked the smell of his cigars. I used to smoke cigarettes at weekend parties when I was about 14. To be honest I don’t think I can remember the very first cigarette but I don’t ever remember not liking them… I do remember practicing different ways to smoke with my girlfriends so that I could look like a French actress and impress the boys! I think my smoking habit began early but slowly and gradually. In those early years it probably was only a handful of cigarettes at the weekend and on the way to school. When I was about 15 I had to get a note from my parents giving me permission to use the smokers area at school which in a strange way made my status as a smoker official. By the time I went to university at 19 I was regularly smoking a pack a day.

I continued smoking until I was 24. When I found out I was pregnant I gave up straight away without much difficulty. To be honest I never worried much about the health risks to myself from smoking although of course I knew about them. To me that was my choice. But I didn’t feel I had the right to impose my health choices on my child. I still believe that and would encourage anyone to give up smoking if they are planning a family. I didn’t have a single cigarette all the time I was pregnant or for about a year later. But then, pretty soon after I had finished breast feeding I started again and have been smoking ever since.

Smoking is still quite common here in Switzerland despite occasional government pushes to reduce it. Most of my friends smoke. Like Cassie, the more I feel under pressure to quit or to think of myself in a bad way because I smoke, the more vocal and rebellious I get on the subject. That’s pretty much why we started this blog.

I have a daughter who will be 13 soon. I am sure within the next few years she will experiment with smoking as will her friends and as did I. I am certainly not going to encourage it but neither will I forbid it. As a mother there are plenty of things I worry about that my daughter is likely to come across in her teens that can do her a lot more harm than a few cigarettes.

I think Cassie and I think of smoking as one of those rights of passage you go through when you are younger. To smoke or not to smoke is a decision most of us make at sometime in our life. It is one of the many choices that define who we are and how we want to be seen by others, but it is an adult choice because it has consequences. It is true that we are probably not fully aware of what those consequences may be when we are in our teens so our decisions may not always be made in the most logical and scientific way. But in truth it is rare that we really know all the possible and most likely consequences of any decision we ever make.

If I am honest I started smoking because I wanted to fit in with a certain group of friends. I wanted to impress certain boys. And I wanted to feel more grown up. Looking back we can laugh at those things, but there is no denying they were important considerations at the time. But I continued smoking because I actually did like the taste and sensation of smoking, I did find it calming and relaxing. In times of stress I am glad I can have a few cigarettes instead of Valium. And in good times I am glad I know the pleasure of a cigarette together with a cup of coffee or a few glasses of wine. Am I less fit and healthy than if I didn’t smoke? Who can say. I doubt that I would be any happier as a non smoker though.

Anti Smoking Prejudice

There are for sure some well meaning people who truly believe that smoking is so bad for people’s health that any effort to prevent people smoking is worthwhile, good and in the public interest. I don’t really agree with them but I understand and respect their motivations. However there are another group of people who just don’t like smoking or smokers and who use concern for people’s health as a front and, dare I say smokescreen, for blatant and quite nasty prejudice. Some people in this group may not even recognise themselves or their prejudice because the health concern issue is such a convenient cause to hide behind. The truth is however that even if smoking was proved to be good for health, there are a significant minority who would still be against it and who would still do everything they could to limit people’s freedom to smoke.

I have to admit that to a large degree I can’t prove what I have just said. It is subjective opinion. It is something I feel strongly; something I may have some anacdotal evidence for, and something I believe to be the case. But I don’t think I can prove it. After all if I asked somebody who was rampantly against smoking if they really cared about my health or if they were just prejudiced against smokers, what would they say? It would be a bit like asking, “do you beat your wife?” But strangely the growing phenomenon of E Cigarettes may shine a light on that sector of society that is just prejudiced against smoking.

I am not a “vaper”. I have never tried an E Cigarette although I suppose I will do at some point. But it does seem that the use of E Cigs is growing steadily and speedily in some places. Some people use them as a means of cutting down or quitting normal cigarettes. Other people “vape” regularly for enjoyment as an alternative to smoking. In either case virtually all medical opinion seems to agree that while some E Cigarettes contain nicotine, they do not contain the tar or other chemicals which make regular cigarettes potentially hazardous to health. So in the worst case scenario those who use the type that contain nicotine may become addicted to something which is virtually harmless!

And yet…

Chicago and New York have recently banned E Cigarettes from all public places… Why? In the UK a recently leaked document indicates that the government is considering doing the same and banning E Cigs from all public and enclosed spaces where they are presently allowed. One of the reasons stated was that there is a danger that E Cigarettes could “re-normalise” smoking. So what? If people decide they like vaping e cigs which do no harm to themselves or others why ban or restrict it? Those who genuinely fear that real cigarettes damage the health of society surely cannot be displeased that some smokers are turning to a much healthier alternative. And if there is a fear that some people who are not attracted to smoking might take up vaping, again, so what? What harm is being done? Why does it need to be limited or controlled?

Unless you are just prejudiced against anything which even resembles smoking cigarettes.

A prejudice is an irrational dislike or hatred of things, individuals or groups of people. A prejudice against smokers is no less despicable than any other prejudice.

I think that for too long outright bigots have attached themselves to groups who have a genuine concern for people’s health. In so doing they have gained much power against the group they despise and hate, and have been quite successful in reducing our rights and freedoms and generally persecuting us with impunity the way all bigots and fascists would like to be able to do.

I think scientists and people in the medical community have a right, perhaps even a duty to inform smokers like myself of the potential dangers we are inflicting on ourselves by smoking. I think they have a right to prevent children from being tempted to take up a habit that could have life threatening consequences. I am not very convinced by the arguments against passive smoking but I would defend the scientific community’s right to warn against its dangers where there is evidence. I don’t however think that anyone has the right to determine how I choose to enjoy myself and what risks I can choose to take so long as I am not hurting anybody else. In fairness, it is probably not the scientific community that is mainly responsible for that. It is the other breed. The prejudiced ones. The ones who get a kick out of controlling others.

Or the ones that just don’t like us.

 

Cassie

Our Smoking Profiles

We thought as a kind of introduction to this blog you might like to know a little bit about us and our history and habits as smokers. We are going to keep these bios short as they touch on subjects we will probably come back to at a later date.

SOPHIE

My name is Sophie. I am 39 years old and have been smoking since I was 15. I gave up for two years while I was pregnant and breast feeding but was quite relieved to start again after that. My daughter who is now sixteen smokes quite heavily herself now and also writes for this blog. I’m Swiss and I live in Zurich together with my daughter and my partner Cassie.

I am a school teacher. I work with young people who have special needs and social problems. Sometimes the work is hard emotionally but still, I love my job.

My regular brands of cigarettes are Parisienne, Black Devil or Gauloises Blue, but in the evenings or if if I go out to dinner or a party I often smoke Davidoff Classics. I also smoke cigars from time to time usually from the Davidoff 1000s range.

I guess I smoke just under a pack a day on average, but it can be more. My first cigarette of the day is with my breakfast coffee. Quite often that is all I have for breakfast. I can’t imagine drinking coffee or wine without smoking a cigarette at the same time. As long as I am reasonably healthy I will continue smoking because I like it a lot. I sometimes feel the health warnings about smoking are a bit exaggerated or to be more exact they don’t take into account that pretty much all things people do for enjoyment can be harmful as well. The thing that kills most of us in the end is oxygen (if you don’t believe me, look up some scientific papers) so everything in life can be dangerous. I don’t think smoking is so much worse than other things.

CASSIE

I’m Cassie. I’m 37 years old and I live in Zurich with Sophie. I travel a lot in my job teaching and promoting special English courses in European schools for a British company. I enjoy the travelling but find it tiring sometimes. I am interested in music and art and in my free time I hang out with a lot of bands and musicians.

I officially started smoking on my sixteenth birthday although I’d had a few cigarettes before that. On average I smoke about 15 cigarettes per day but it can be almost double that if I go out for the evening. I mostly smoke Marlboro or Camel lights but I smoke Black Devils as well and anything that Sophie leaves lying around the house! At weekends and special occasions I also smoke cigars. I am not a cigar officianardo although I once had a boyfriend who was and who tried to educate me… I prefer Panatellas , Henri Wintermann or Castellas.

I suppose nicotine is part of my body chemistry by now but it doesn’t bother me. I am pretty strong willed and I think I could give up smoking if I ever really wanted to, but I never have wanted to. Some of my happiest times have been in smokey bars and cafés with musicians or artistic friends who all smoke and it is part of the culture I feel comfortable in.

I try to be a considerate smoker. I don’t smoke around children and I try to avoid smoking in any confined space where there are non smokers. However I find there are less and less places where I can smoke openly and socially and I do object to being treated like a second class citizen because I’m a smoker.

TINA

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I’m Tina. At the time of writing this in July 2016 I am sixteen years old. I love smoking very much. I always wanted to smoke and have been smoking more and more regularly since I was about 14. My ex boyfriend said I was a hungry smoker, and I guess that is true. I also vape and smoke shisha, but it is cigarettes that I am really addicted to. Parisienne is my regular brand but I also smoke anything that my family or friends leave around. On average I smoke anything between 10 to 20 cigarettes per day.

I am not apologising to anybody for smoking. I like it and it is completely legal where I live.  I’m not a stupid bimbo, I’m quite intelligent, a good student and I aim to get a first class hounors when I take my degree. I am not a role model and I am not responsible for whether anybody else starts smoking or not. But I do think there are too many controls on how people choose to live their lives and I think smoking gets too much blame and attention when there are so many more serious problems and health risks in the world.