What does our next generation think of today’s issues? The Big Smoke’s Next Gen program publishes Australian students mentored by TBS writers. Today, Chloe Drougas asks can Australia do more to change attitudes toward smoking, worldwide?
Student: Chloe Drougas
Mentor: Loretta Barnard
Topic: Australia’s smoking reforms put us in position to lead by example, globally.
I’ve just come back from a holiday in Europe. I went to Germany, Austria and Greece.
I had a great time seeing the sights, people-watching, enjoying good food and relaxing by the beach but one thing really bugged me.
The weather was warm and the sun set at 9pm so the best thing to do at dinnertime was to sit outside at a restaurant, café or tavern and try some of the local food and enjoy the view.
I never sat at one single restaurant without at least five gangs of smokers around us and more still closing in. Sadly with this all going on, I couldn’t just enjoy a nice dinner, lunch or breakfast without suffocating or choking every time I needed to breath. I felt like poisonous fumes were surrounding me. Oh wait – they were!
The only way to avoid it was if they decided to stop smoking or leave the restaurant (both unlikely) or if we moved inside. But who wants to eat inside while the sun is still out and you want to enjoy the outdoors? You want to see the beaches in Greece and the Alps in Austria, plus you’re on holidays, so isn’t eating outdoors the whole point!
So it occurred to me how lucky we are in Australia – especially my generation. Everything is set against smoking. The price of a packet of cigarettes is high, the packaging is unattractive, there is no advertising to influence us and we are being educated at a primary school level about how bad smoking is as well as the effects of passive smoking. So this new generation is exposed to and is very educated about smoking’s bad effects, and hopefully this means the smoking population will diminish even more in Australia.
What I take for granted here in Australia are some of the world’s toughest anti-smoking laws. I’m thankful I can live my life without smoke constantly in my face. Australian people generally adhere to the law and realise what is best for the majority.
I like to imagine that future generations will read about smoking in history documents and wonder why anyone could do such a thing.
Secondhand smoke is horribly uncomfortable for tourists and I find breathing in other people’s smoke intolerable, but at least I know I don’t actually have to live with it everywhere all the time back at home. Imagine living with it every day, it would be unbearable.
We can go about our day and never come across a smoker. We can easily avoid it.
In Germany, Austria and Greece, I found it was unavoidable and it had me worried. It clicked that not all countries are (or want to be) on the same level as Australia.
My Austrian friend lived in Australia for a year and attended my primary school. I asked her about her views about smoking. She mentioned how surprised she was that we talked about it so much at school and that there were so many rules. She understands it’s bad for you and has no intention of trying it, but for her, living with it and being exposed to it daily is kind of normal.
I have since found that what I take for granted here in Australia are actually some of the world’s toughest anti-smoking laws. A packet of 20 cigarettes in Australia is one of the most expensive in the world. At over around $16 a pack it’s costing smokers a fortune. In Greece they are under €4 Euros (approx $6) and in Austria the price is €4.50 Euros (approx $7).
I’m so pleased and thankful for the strict measures in Australia so I can live my life without smoke constantly in my face. It’s also great that Australian people generally adhere to the law and realise what is best for the majority.
I found out that many countries such as Greece also have anti-smoking laws, but they are not enforced and I don’t think anyone follows them.
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There are people who weren’t taught anything about smoking and have then made the wrong choice about it. Lots of these people just follow the examples of parents and peers and take up the habit. Here in Australia, we made a break in the chain. If only European countries would make that same break, then the health of their children would not be damaged by exposure to smoke. Europeans are the world’s biggest smokers according to a World Health Organisation report. On average, 27 percent of people over 15 are smokers, higher than in any other part of the world.
Smoking rates among adults in Australia have been steadily declining. The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report found the smoking rate among adults (aged 18 years and over) was 13.3 percent. This is a good start but we still have a long way to go.
We need to see eye to eye across countries about smoking and for us all to realise that it needs to be stopped so that we can save our future from harmful living and an unpleasant environment. Instead protect a healthy planet that we can all enjoy together.
When discussing smoking, Australia is the lucky country.
But we really need everyone to be lucky.
This article is part of a series for The Big Smoke Next Gen.
The Big Smoke Next Gen is a program which matches professional and experienced writers, academics and journalists with students who wish to write non-fiction articles and voice their opinions on what is shaping the nation.
For more information about our program at The Big Smoke, or to become a mentor, please contact us.