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January 11, 2011 · ,

Smoking Culture in Buenos Aires

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In 2006 Buenos Aires passed a law that banned smoking in public buildings. Smoke-filled bars were a thing of the past, and for the most part this ban has been successful. It is rare that you find people smoking in bars, however, there are the few holes in the wall bars tucked behind dark corners where smoking still happens despite the very prominent NO SMOKING sign. One way to spot these smoking speakeasies is fairly simple: if there is not a crowd of smokers outside, well then there is a good likelihood that the people are smoking inside- unless, of course, the bar has a backyard, where people are permitted to smoke.

Smoking bans came into affect on behalf of non-smokers. Government officials felt that it was not fair that non-smokers, particularly bar and restaurant employees, suffer health problems caused by smoking. The ban supposedly has reduced heart attacks and other medical issues. One study showed that a smoking ban coincided with a reduction of people going to hospital for heart attacks by 17%. It is obvious that smoking bans get yield positive results. However, on the other hand does this ban encroach on one’s personal right to choose? I think people of Buenos Aires would answer that question affirmatively.

It is common to hear foreigners comment on the amount of people they see smoking in Buenos Aires. This may be because in other cities where the ban exists, the number of smokers reduces drastically. In New York, for example, you are not allowed to smoke in any outside areas of the bars, such as the sidewalk café area or the backyard. Some would say that New York took the extra step to really ostracize its smokers. Is the act of ostracizing the way to reduce smoking? I am sure you could find some to argue yes and some to argue no. I would image that most Porteños would argue no. Despite the ban in Buenos Aires, smoking is still a common occurrence and it does not seem like anyone is changing their habits anytime soon. It has been four years and the smoking culture is still very much alive and well down here.

Kate

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