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.






  1. Mike van Wyk · April 25, 2016

    A year ago I had the most frustrating stop-over at Heathrow on my way to Los Angeles after a 11 hour trip from South Africa. I virtually went into anxiety mode because nowhere were I allowed to smoke. I was pleading for a Temporary Visa just to take a puff outside the terminal to no avail. On my way back I was able to get one but only pretending to be severely stressed. Smokers pay the same as non-smokers and I fail to understand why our travel experience is of no concern to the Powers-that-be. It is just downright petty to say the least !!

    • Cassie & Sophie · April 25, 2016

      Agreed. I find Heathrow one of the worst airports for smokers. Cassie

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