Thank you for smoking

Henny Heyndrickx, the boss of Tabaknatie, is very worried about the ruthless discrimination of smokers in Belgium. With the ban on smoking in restaurants coming into effect in less than 60 days, he wants to set up a list of ‘smoker-friendly’ restaurants. This means: restaurants that have a smoking room (* see below) installed.

His quote (translated by me):

“Often it is important for our business partners to enjoy a cigarette at the table in between courses. (…) We guarantee restaurants that can still allow smoking thanks to extra measures, a mentioning on our website, and also that we will take advantage of every occasion to promote these ‘smoke-friendly’ restaurants amongst our customers and relations.”

I can live with the limited space (of a smoking room), but this is really a boycot of the cigarette. What else? Belgium is a leader in the battle against smoking, together with some other countries. Apparently everything should be banned here. After tobacco we might get a ban on whiskey.”
(de Standaard)

Some remarks on that:

  • if whiskey would kill as many people per year and be as annoying for bystanders as smoking, then they should ban it. But it doesn’t and it isn’t. That statement is demagogic.
  • Belgium is not that avant-garde in keeping restaurants smokefree. Argentina, Australia, California, Canada, D.C., Ireland, Malta, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden … already implemented it, and the UK will follow in 2007. (wikipedia). I hope he does realize how cynical that statement is: “do we really have to move so fast with all this health concern and saving lives and shit?”
  • If Mr. Heyndrickx cares about health, it’s probably primarily the financial health of his company. It is the biggest organisation in transport and warehousing of cigarettes (37 mio euro turnover and 200 employees – they store the equivalent of 3 packs of cigarettes for each person on Earth). Since the beginning of 2006, he is the sole owner of the company and he wishes to leave it to both his children. Heartwarming. I hope they both smoke like chimneys and make daddy proud.
  • At the end of the day, smoking is a historic error. No consumption article with such devastating effect on health and society would stand a chance of of getting approved these days. It’s just been around long enough to create a big industry with deep pockets and strong enough lobbying power to avoid getting treated as the social cancer that they really are. On that topic: go see “Thank you for smoking”. It is hilarious.

Thank you for smokingPeople, what is going on out there? I look down this table, all I see are white flags. Our numbers are down all across the board. Teen smoking, our bread and butter, is falling like a shit from heaven! We don’t sell Tic Tacs for Christ’s sake. We sell cigarettes. And they’re cool and available and *addictive*. The job is almost done for us!
from Thank You For Smoking

* Smoking room: A smoking room is an area where smoking is allowed. It must be clearly indicated and closed off from the rest of the establishment. (…) It can not be a transit zone (to toilets, garden). It can not be larger than 25% of the total area. Only drinks can be served in that area. There must be a smoke evacuation system installed.

6 thoughts on “Thank you for smoking”

  1. I’m a smoker myself and I agree that smoking is bad and shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants and so on.

    But one thing I don’t agree on. If you want to have big taxes on cigarettes, why encourage everybody to stop smoking.

    I mean in the calculations for the cash flow of the government they relay heavily on these taxes. But they will ban smoking everywhere, so that doesn’t make sense to me.

    I’ll probably quit smoking in a very short time, so I don’t worry too much about it.

  2. There is no relation between the taxation and the banning of smoking, so don’t look for it. The government will need to come up with other taxes to fill the gap when everybody stops smoking. But they’ll manage, don’t worry about that.

  3. I admit I haven’t dug deep into this new legislation, but I don’t get the principle of these closed off smoking rooms. I thought one of the reasons behind banning smoking in restaurants was also to protect the staff from second-hand smoke? If they have to go serving people in these rooms it kind of defeats the purpose.

    But then, this is Belgium, land of the strange compromise 🙂

  4. Thank you for smoking, great movie !

    I hope we will soon have a legislation with a total smoking ban. I hate going to bars and get home afterwards and just smell that dry cigarette odor.

    You never easily notice something bad is gone(for example: when you have a cold and it’s gone). I remember being in smoke-free bars abroad. I only noticed it was smoke free when I left the bar and some guys were smoking outside. So great…

  5. Thanks for the helpful countdown – must say that I can’t wait. My physical intolerance to second-hand smoke has been a major handicap to enjoying Brussels’ considerable nightlife, which I can only partake in during the late summer months when everyone is outdoors. So, bring it on! Cheers, David

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