Smoke on the Water

One thing I hate when going home is the increased exposure to cigarette smoke.

You’d think that it’s because an undeveloped semi-Balkan country like Hungary would have a lot more smokers. I don’t have statistics at hand but based on my observations there aren’t any fewer smokers in Japan compared to Hungary. If anything there are more.

It’s the attitude that makes it hard to cope with at home. In Japan the only time I can’t escape smoke is in the narrow streets. On the more crowded ones they even use megaphones to ask people to refrain from smoking.

Not the case in Hungary. People tend to disregard rules and they smoke where they damn well please. A prime example is trains: apparently the strain of being confined in the enclosed space of a passenger car is too much to bear without a couple of sniffs.

On the way to Szeged a girl went to the corridor at every station and puffed happily. The only problem was that with the practically nonexistent insulation of the compartments everyone else got to inhale the smoke.

Another time I asked a young man to please wait a bit with his cigarette until the train stopped and we got off, since it was impossible to escape the smoke while queued up in the corridor. He ignored me obviously. After all isn’t is his bloody birthright to kill himself?

Yet another time passengers watched dumbfounded as a heavyset man with a prisoner demeanor walked through the car (coach style not parlor) with a lit cigarette leaving a trail of putrid stench. No one was brave enough to challenge him of course.

It would be easy to blame the railway company. However I believe the main problem lies within the people. It’s easy to deduct that not even smokers can stand the prolonged exposure to smoke: this is why the majority of smokers tend to sit in the non-smoker cars, and use the aisles to satisfy their addiction. Obviously the doors cannot prevent the smoke from entering the compartments. People can’t even refrain from smoking when the trains are so crowded that the aisles are full as well. And I don’t think it’s the controller’s job to keep order, even if he/she could…

I have yet to see anyone in Japan smoke on a train. The concept of smoking cars in unknown too, except for the shinkansen, where there’s always one dedicated to smokers. However on regular trains it simply is forbidden. And however much they crave, Japanese would never break this rule.

In my opinion the Japanese overdo the whole keeping in line thing, nevertheless we could learn a thing or two about courtesies to others from them.

3 Replies to “Smoke on the Water”

  1. Two little addons: In Japan there are smoker cars on the Limited Express trains as well. This can get particularly annoying when the two non-reserved cars (available for those last-minute backpacker Rail Pass holders as I was) is practically reduced to one – you can choose between standing or passively smoking for an hour or so.

    Anyway, when trying to determine whether our dear Hungary can be classed into an undeveloped Balcanic country or not – I don’t think it’s the best idea to compare it to Japan. Developed it might be, but the ratio of smokers is still among the highest of the world. Keeping an eye on health like no other nation does, yet smoking like hell is one of the largest controversies of this Asian country – rivalled only by its history textbooks.

    Just to contribute to the topic as an insighter – in France about 5% of the students smoke in our engineering school. The national average can be about 10-15%, yet I don’t possess any statistics here. Every spot designed for smokers has a sign with a toll-free number urging you to ask your pharmacian or a professional to help stop smoking.

    Getting back to JP – one of the funniest sights were those glass booths in public institutions packed with salarymen, standing silently with an expressionles face, devoting themselves to the plesure of breathing smoke for five minutes…

  2. Kedvenceim a buszmegállók. Aki rágyújt, abszolút nem érdekli se a szélirány, se semmi, csak hogy neki jó legyen. Már azzal borzasztó sokat köszönhetünk neki, hogy nem a tömeg közepén teszi ezt hanem csak a szélén..

    Mellesleg 20onpár éve még lehetett a közintézményekben, kórházakban is dohányozni. Az azért jelentheti azt hogy kell pár év az “átszokáshoz” – legalább 1 generáció :S

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