This weekend I remember leaving AcaBar, a restaurant/bar in Palermo, with some friends and I realized how much different the experience was from just 5 months ago when I went there with this same group of friends. The last time, the place was so smoke-filled that you could hardly see across from one end to the other. I remembered that after I got home, I had to strip off all my clothes and take a shower just to get the smell of smoke out of my hair.
Then it happened. The impossible. Buenos Aires went smoke free. Signs are up all over the capital. “Buenos Aires libre de humo.” (Buenos Aires free of smoke) Restaurants posted smaller versions, versions of the law. All over the milongas, bars, and restaurants, signs prohibiting smoking were posted.
On Oct 3 the local paper Clarin had a story of how 250 police were hired to patrol the city to make sure the law was being followed. Only 2 patrons in a bar in Recoleta were cited. Over all people and places were observing the law. I think many of us were shocked.
Ireland seems like the most unlikely place to have a smoke-free law. They are a pub culture. There must be one pub for every 100 people. It was ingrained in their culture to have a Guinness in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Nobody believed that a smoking ban in pubs would work. At least that was the myth anyway. As it turns out, the Irish are very supportive of it. The pubs are clean and fresh. Smokers still exist and they administer their dose of nicotine outside. (…) 82% of the population supports the smoke-free law. Oh, and now you can have a Guinness in each hand.
On Jan. 10, 2005, Italy enacted a law that banned smoking in public places like offices, restaurants, cafés and bars. Smokers declared – basta! – they would never comply. Restaurateurs were certain business would flag. And politicians worried that an essential pleasure of Italy would be lost. Nearly two years later, this is what has transpired, according to studies following the fallout: People in Italy smoke a lot less and are exposed to far less secondhand smoke.
In fact, the law has grown to be shockingly popular, with support for smoking bans increasing yearly among nonsmokers and smokers alike. Business in bars is up. A study in Turin found that the number of people brought to hospital emergency rooms after suffering heart attacks decreased after the ban (secondhand smoke could be a trigger), a finding that echoes studies in the United States.
According to the city’s annual Summary of Vital Statistics report, which was released yesterday, smoking-related deaths in New York city have decreased by more than 10 percent since 2000. That’s about 800 fewer deaths per year. When asked how much of this decrease could be credited to Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade against smoking, city health commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told the Times, “I think most of it.”