Smoking Culture in Europe: How It Works, and How to Quit

In late 2023, the French government made headlines by unveiling robust anti-tobacco measures. These new measures include more public bans and cigarette price increases and are designed to steer France away from its longstanding “national habit” of smoking. This commitment of the government to combating tobacco addiction signals a significant departure from the continent’s entrenched smoking culture.

As we delve into the intricacies of smoking culture across Europe, it becomes evident that each country possesses its own unique relationship with tobacco. Below, we take a closer look at these relationships and discuss tips for travelers looking to quit.

Exploring smoking culture across Europe

European countries boast diverse smoking cultures and traditions. In France, for instance, the image of the “bon vivant,” leisurely seated at a street café with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, is deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric through films and artworks. Hence, France still counts 12 million daily smokers among its adult population, a figure that has remained stagnant for some time. This prevalence often comes as a culture shock to tourists visiting the country.

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This culture shock is mirrored across different countries in Europe. In our previous article, we discussed Germany’s outdoor dining and drinking culture, wherein smoking is not only permitted but commonplace. Some establishments even allow smoking indoors, contributing to Germany’s reputation as a smoking-friendly destination.

With that, it might be easy to argue that Germany smokes the most out of the Western European nations. However, while 15.7% of Germany certainly smoke, this percentage is actually among the lower bracket of European countries with smokers. France, with a smoking rate of 22.2%, stands in the middle bracket.

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In truth, Bulgaria tops the list, with 28.2% of the population consuming tobacco daily. The Local explains that enacting indoor smoking bans is thus no longer enough. The introduction of a total indoor smoking ban in Bulgaria in 2012 initially yielded promising results. However, lax enforcement and weakening controls over time have led to a resurgence in smoking rates.

In contrast, Sweden has strictly banned smoking in all bars and restaurants since early 2005. This ban was also extended to include outdoor seating in bars and restaurants as well as public places in 2019. For these efforts, Sweden stands as the European country with the lowest rates of smoking.

Understanding the dangers of smoking

Regardless of smoking’s popularity, its dangers remain well-documented. This extends beyond individual health risks to societal and environmental consequences. From the increased risk of various cancers and respiratory diseases to secondhand smoke exposure affecting nonsmokers, the harmful effects of smoking are undeniable, reaffirming the critical need for smoking cessation efforts by all stakeholders.

Tips for quitting smoking while traveling

On the individual scale, European travelers looking to quit smoking can explore the following tips. Firstly, recognize and avoid triggers that may tempt you to smoke. If social settings or certain activities trigger cravings, opt for alternative experiences. Enjoying options like Bordeaux’s famous chocolate milk drink, Calolac, instead of wine or indulging in a late-night spa treatment at the Liquidrom in Germany can help you avoid triggers related to drinking or visiting bars.

Afterward, arm yourself with smokeless alternatives. Nicotine cravings can be intense, and you may end up encountering your triggers despite your efforts. These alternatives provide nicotine at controlled dosages, offering a convenient way to satisfy cravings without the harmful effects of tobacco. The nicotine pouches listed here are a popular option among Americans and actually originate from Sweden. These pouches resemble Swedish snus and are tucked discreetly under the lips for nicotine to release. You can choose among the best-selling ZYN pouches, sold under Swedish Match, or even opt for the novel products LUCY or Siberia for a unique nicotine experience.

If these alternatives are not enough, then you may consider prescription medications that block the pleasurable effects of nicotine in the brain. Cytisine, featured in this article, is an effective option used in central and eastern Europe for decades. However, availability may vary by country, and consulting your doctor on the best option before your trip is advisable.

With these tips and knowledge, travelers can embrace the rich experiences Europe has to offer smoke-free. For more on travel, check out our blog on Johnny Africa.

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