Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S. has heard all about the dangers of tobacco. Weâ€™ve all been warned not to smoke cigarettes, to â€œjust say no.â€ We have seen the commercials featuring victims of emphysema, tracheostomy patients, and the shock-scare-scandalize Infect Truth ads designed to prevent smoking. I canâ€™t say with any certainty that the anti-smoking education campaign has been very effective in its primary goal, but it has certainly changed how society views smoking (and smokers). Smoking is no longer a sign of middle class affluence. Instead it has become this frowned upon addiction. In many parts of the U.S. smoking bans have forced smokers to practice clandestinely in hidden, unpopulated areas like dark alleys behind bars and empty parking lots.
I know many smokers in the U.S. who have been socialized to constantly apologize for their addiction. Not so in Buenos Aires. This is a haven for unapologetic smoking activity. Being a smoker here seems to be the norm. Whether or not that is because smokers here donâ€™t feel the need to hide or because there are in fact more smokers relative to the population, I donâ€™t know.
Restaurants have smoking/non-smoking sections, cigarettes are readily available to folks of all ages (for less than US$1.50), and should you run out of smokes walking down the street it is relatively easy to pick up a second-hand cloud to trail behind. Possibly because smoking isnâ€™t the illicit cult activity here that it seems to be in the U.S. there is a certain lack of generally observed etiquette. It is perfectly okay to blow smoke in someoneâ€™s face, for example. I know, right? I am fascinated.
I am still trying to learn all the nuances of the smoking culture here in Buenos Aires (so expect further details at a later date). This is of course, only slightly hindered by the fact that I do not smoke cigarettes. Maybe I should start?