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There's one thing Americans do with more class than Europeans: for the most part, they don't smoke. Or they don't smoke in public anymore.

I can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke; especially when I'm sick like I was most of this trip to Germany. But pretty much any time the smell of smoke makes me physically ill. I hate getting it on my clothes, in my hair and mostly in my lungs.

I grew up in a house with parents who were two-pack-a-day smokers and later with two older sisters who smoked at home, at the dinner table, in the car with the windows rolled up, anywhere and everywhere. I had pneumonia several times as a child and my lungs can't take it anymore. I vowed never to smoke myself and I never did.

I also grew up in a state that was one of the first to have No Smoking sections of restaurants and one of the first to outright ban much public smoking. My parents and sister later quit smoking and as time went on and smoking became less and less socially acceptable, my world became and remains pretty much smoke free.

So I was surprised on both recent trips to Europe to find myself face-to-face with smokers everywhere. I guess some places have banned smoking in public places, but not all and the laws don't appear to be well enforced in any event. I saw smokers everywhere and they seemed not to care one bit about offending anyone or hiding their habit. At Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig (restaurant established in the 16th century and made most famous by Goethe in"Faust") I had to leave abruptly because between the smell of saur kraut (another childhood trauma story for another time) and cigarettes I thought I was going to pass out.


Oddly, when I was going through the duty-free shop at the Frankfurt aiport I noticed the 96 point font of the warning labels on cigarettes and thought, apparently the message that smoking is bad for your health and the health of people around you hasn't sunk in over here.


Originally posted on patty.vox.com