As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was in Hanoi recently. The street I stay on is famous for its cafés, and I was delighted to see that they all now sport No Smoking signs. But when I entered one, excited for my delicious Vietnamese coffee, I immediately saw that several people were smoking inside. It then occurred to me that the law has mandated smoke-free cafés…but enforcement stops at the signs.
I did finally enjoy a delicious coffee at an otherwise deserted shop, and ate smoke-free meals at restaurants that I knew were safe, while enduring teasing by my friends for continuing to eat in the same places I discovered 20 or so years ago. It’s great to see the international progress on tobacco control…but also useful (albeit painful) to have the occasional reminder of how far we still have to go. The many places that have succeeded in becoming mostly smoke-free still have important lessons to extend to those which continue to struggle; fortunately a positive impact of globalization is that those lessons are shared more easily than ever.
As to how far we’ve come: the first vegetarian restaurant in Hanoi used to sell cigarettes. When it became non-smoking, the staff did not feel they could object when people still smoked. It has now been years since I’ve seen anyone smoke in that restaurant, or the several others that have voluntarily become smoke-free, presumably on the realization that it’s good for business. So while it may take what seems to me ridiculously long, I do look forward to the day when I can enjoy my fragrant coffee in Vietnam without being subjected to tobacco fumes!
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