I remember being a student in Paris and having to wash my hair after a night out because of the ever-present smell of cigarette smoke. I got used to the constant odor and began to associate the particular smell of French tobacco with my splendid time as a student abroad. That has changed, as France has reduced smoking and banned it from many public spaces.
There is something quintessentially French, however, about lighting up in a cafe, and even though I haven’t smoked in years, I have to admit I’m tempted the minute I land in the country. Part of the reason smoking is mildly appealing in Paris is also the fact that cigarettes are inexpensive compared to the U.S.
In Russia, another European country with a strong smoking tradition, nearly 40% of the population has a nicotine habit, fueled in part by the less than $2.00 a pack cost. President Putin, a fitness freak and cheerleader for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, has just signed a law that bans smoking in all public places beginning in June of this year.
According to the New York Times, the new law will ban smoking near the entrances of subway and railroad stations, and ultimately in restaurants, cafes, hotels, government buildings, universities and stadiums. Restrictions on advertising, increased taxes and efforts to change the culture of roadside tobacco kiosks are in the works as well.
For a country that has been a tobacco industry nirvana for a long time, these are big changes. If you do fly Aeroflot, one of the last international airlines to ban smoking, they do offer nicotine gum.