I’m an ex-smoker. Ruth never smoked. Like most people who have managed to quit for whatever reason, I don’t like to be around cigarette smoke. Doctors tell me to avoid it whenever possible. This is not difficult in the United States anymore, except in casinos, but it can be a problem when traveling internationally.
The worst place I’ve been since quitting is Germany. In 2009, Der Spiegel, a weekly news magazine, reported that bar smoking was weakly controlled and that in some places the official smoking ban was not being enforced at all. That was 4 years ago, and, perhaps, it’s different now. But probably not.
The place where I expected second-hand smoke to be an issue was China where 320 million people light up regularly according to Lily Kuo reporting in October, 2013. But it wasn’t. I saw only one group of men smoking openly yet discreetly, even sheepishly, in a train station. According to The Economist, another news magazine, the average Chinese smoker lit up 30% more in 2012 than 12 years ago making their country 11th in the world in consumption per person.
I recently read a report from ERC tracking 123 countries on smoking. This research company north of London, England, in Suffolk began as European Research Consultants Ltd. in 1961, and its market reports and information services are now international. They extended their reach to the U.S. in 1986.
According to ERC, consumption is down but appetite continues to rise with 5.9 trillion cigarettes smoked in 2012. Trillion! The most dedicated smokers are in central and eastern Europe. Serbian smokers, for example, light up 3,323 cigarettes per year making them #1 in the world.
Smoking is declining in Hong Kong, Panama, and Lithuania and rising in Myanmar, Lebanon, and Vietnam. The World Health Organizations estimates that smoking causes almost 10% of adult deaths world-wide each year.
Having smoked, I feel sorry for those huddled masses outside office buildings on cold, windy days and understand why they’re there. I have a good friend named Jack who just switched to electronic cigarettes and loves them. This might be a good time to buy stock in companies that make them and avoid booking a trip to Serbia.