Disclaimer: This post is infused with pregnancy hormones and a mother-to-be’s instincts to protect her unborn child.
I find a spot on the beach where there are only a couple of cigarette butts as opposed to dozens, bury them under the sand with my foot and lay down my towel. Just as I begin to appreciate the surrounding scenery and breath in the fresh sea air the person near-by ‘lights up’. A few moments later my view is hazed by a cloud of toxic smoke and my lungs are heaving, causing me to cough unpleasantly.
I have never been a smoker, but I never actually realised how much I disliked breathing in other people’s second hand smoke until the smoking ban was brought in in the UK in the year 2007. Until this time smoking was an everyday part of life, whether you chose to purchase a pack of cigarettes or not. You could see the smoke pour out the door as you entered a pub on a cold winter’s night, your clothes would smell if you had been in a public indoor place and most people would not think twice about smoking in a confined space around pregnant women or children.
Over the past nine years however public attitude and awareness has changed exponentially in the UK. Most people don't smoke nowadays, it's far less ‘fashionable’, incredibly expensive and if having to go out in the cold, wet British weather on your own isn't an incentive not to ‘light up’ then I don't know what else. Not only this, people who do choose to smoke are generally much more conscious than they used to be, asking if you mind if they smoke, stepping away when doing so and not smoking around children. The recent law banning smoking in a car with this under 18 was a particularly good introduction if you ask me.
Unfortunately, however, this social evolution doesn't seem to have taken hold in many other parts of the world. Whilst in part I can understand this in developing countries such as India or Morocco, where smoking is rife, but public education is less developed, I simply do not understand this in Europe. A couple of years ago I wrote a post entitled Trashy Kusadashi, where I had been horrified by the level of smoking on the beach, which I referred to as a giant ash tray. I will never understand why people dump their cigarette butts, a litter which is not usually bio-degradable, on the very beach that they wish to lay on and enjoy. In this particular instance it was impossible to find a clean area of the beach.
This year I visited Greece, and while the extent to which tourists smoked was less than Turkey, the level was still unpleasantly high. If you want to fill your body with discussing, poisonous gases, that is up to you, but to inflict that upon other people who cannot avoid breathing in your second hand smoke, that in my opinion is one of the most selfish things that you can do. I longed to sit on the beach, walk down the street or eat my dinner at a restaurant without the inevitable smoke cloud engulfing my lungs which inevitably filters through to my unborn child, but I can honestly say that I'm not sure I had this luxury once during my two and a half week road trip.
Despite the introduction of a smoking ban, similar to the UK, Greece appears not to enforce it. Hotels have ash trays in the rooms and restaurants on the tables. One day I watched a mother breath her smoke all over her child before she proceeded to burn him with her cigarette, much to my dismay she didn't even check to see if the child was OK or apologise, just told him to stop crying and continued her conversation. To me, this is horrific and extremely selfish behaviour. Whilst I have given the examples of Turkey and Greece here I would like to highlight that many European countries have similar smoking habits.
When I travel I want to experience the beauty that the country has to offer. I want to smell the olive trees, I want to breath in the clean mountain air, I want to taste the spices of the local tzasiki. I do not want all of this tainted by smoke that not only smells and tastes absolutely disgusting, but also has the potential to kill me. The intention of this post is not to rant like a hormonal pregnant lady (which I’m sure plays a role), but also to raise awareness. If you choose to smoke then that is your choice, but don't spoil the very environment you have travelled to see by leaving your litter on the floor. Don't spoil other people’s meals by clouding them with smoke in the restaurant. Don't take away people’s clean air by replacing it with toxic gasses that are inevitable unavoidable even if the non-smoker tries their best to move away from you. Think about your actions and be a little bit more selfless. Passive smoking has a proven link to cancer, you can read more about this here.
Lets raise awareness on this issue and let these smokers realise just how much it impacts other people when they ‘light up’ in public!