Smoking is common among Croatian women

Blue haze Serbia: where smokers still smoke unrestrainedly

Many smokers in Germany will hardly be able to remember how relaxed it feels to smoke outside of your own four walls. How pleasant it is to light a cigarette in a warm restaurant in the winter months. First schnapps and cigarettes while you wait for food, then coffee and cigarette to digest. When I travel to EU countries as a smoker in winter, I usually come home cold because I have to puff in front of the door freezing.

Smoke harms the health! So what?

This text does not want to play down smoking. Of course, smoking is harmful to health and the environment, and of course passive smoking is also harmful. We also know that in Serbia. However, this does not have any profound consequences in my country. In Serbia smoking is prohibited by law in offices, shopping malls, post offices and airports, but you can puff as much as you want in coffee houses, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Even in some offices, the smoking ban is not taken so seriously. When a corresponding law was passed a few years ago, there were still controls with smoke detectors, but the state seems to have dispensed with them in the meantime.

Serbian smokers enjoy almost limitless freedom

Those who come to Serbia feel a little like a time traveler who has been transported back to an era before the general fight against cigarette smoke. Here the smokers are still dominant. My non-smoking friends from the EU suffer when they visit me in Serbia. Especially in winter they can hardly stand it in the smoky bars in Belgrade.

I can't think of a single restaurant or coffee house in Belgrade in which a smoking room is physically sealed off from the non-smoking room. In some of the larger restaurants, smoking and non-smoking tables are separated, but that's a joke - they're all in the same room.

Electronic cigarettes are on the rise

It seems that local owners in Belgrade do not dare to ban smoking because they fear losing sales. However, a friend of mine has provided counter-evidence. He did in his cafe Skver banned smoking of cigarettes, cigars and pipes and says its sales have not suffered. However, that is also part of the truth that his guests are allowed to smoke IQOS or GLO: electric cigarettes in which the tobacco does not burn, but is heated so that no smoke is produced, just smoke that dissolves in the air. The electric puff is a great way for cigarette smokers to pull one off, even in hotel rooms. Because a smoke detector does not react to the smoke emitted, and you don't even have to ventilate the room afterwards.

Shock images on cigarette packs? Nothing!

Serbia is smoker-friendly through and through. One looks in vain for the usual shock images on the cigarette packs. There are only warnings like: "Smoking kills." According to a study by the Public Health Institute, three out of four people in Serbia are exposed to cigarette smoke Batut. Around 37 percent of the adult population would smoke daily or occasionally; more than 15,000 people die each year from diseases caused by smoking. Measured against the population, it is a third more than in Germany. Nevertheless, there are no political initiatives for a general smoking ban in the EU accession candidate Serbia.

The Serbian state makes good money from the tobacco industry

This may also be because both Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco have large cigarette factories in Serbia. Taxes on the tobacco industry make up eleven percent of the Serbian national budget, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić recently said, underscoring the importance of cigarette manufacturers for the Serbian economy. In the first five months of this pandemic-ridden year, the Serbian tobacco industry increased production by 18.8 percent.

A general smoking ban is not in sight. For the time being, smokers will continue to be free in Serbia and be allowed to smoke almost everywhere at the expense of those around them.