For those who have followed our journey from Life in Australia to Life in The Netherlands, you’ll know that we’ve now lived for around 9 months in the Netherlands. About 7 of that has been really cold. As a Queensland girl, I’ve desperately missed the sunshine and even all the hardened Dutchies have been complaining how long winter has lasted this season – we’ve even had a snowy Easter!
Each week, I take my eldest to swimming lessons while my youngest and I sit in the cafe and wait the 45 minutes. It’s not so bad, nice view and I do some work on my laptop, she plays on the iPad and we enjoy some yummy patat.
Last week, I was excited to see that the outdoor doors are now open. I didn’t even notice before they had an outdoor section. It’s a really inviting balcony, complete with pretty flower boxes. Lovely, spring is in the air, I can sit and enjoy the sunshine! Only I can’t. It stinks. The smokers have taken over. Even just two smokers out there means the whole area is pretty unwelcoming for non-smokers.
I’m actually allergic to cigarette smoke, it gives me an almost instant headache. I had extra issues with it when I was pregnant in The Netherlands with my first daughter, being a protective new mother-to-be. I found it really difficult to avoid smokers throughout the pregnancy, and rarely ate out because of it. You’d like a non smoking section? Sure, right over here, directly next to the smoking one. You’d like a smoke-free section outside in the sunshine? Are you crazy? Outside is where the smokers always are. Note the ashtrays on every table in Delft.
That was in 2007 and not long afterwards we moved (back) to Australia. Bliss. Not only could I eat out, I can sit anywhere and rarely even inhale a puff of smoke. More importantly to me, neither did my children.
Now I must say, I am someone who believes strongly in everyone having a right to live their life how they like. If people want to smoke, I have no issue with that whatsoever. Until that decision infringes on my health and my children’s, in public areas. Yes, I understand there are other pollutants and dangers out there. For me though, none so blatantly anti-social as smoking. I actually saw a funny video relating to this recently:
In the few years we lived in Australia, anti-smoking laws were brought in here in The Netherlands and you can read about that here:
If you don’t read Dutch, basically the ban only covers the inside area of restaurants and many other public buildings.
Perhaps as someone who doesn’t understand the addiction, I misjudge the problem, but I really don’t get why such a known health risk is still part of any culture. My dad smoked for more than 50 years but I was so proud of him giving up around the time my daughters arrived. Yet it’s perfectly legal – and it seems acceptable – for smokers to be able to smoke in any outdoor area, including on a crowded terrace cafe, right next to my children and I.
It really is a conflict issue for me. I rarely write about anything controversial or that may offend others, but this is one topic I am taking a stand on. While I type, a mother smokes next to her baby twins outside on the terrace, and another was literally blowing smoke in her baby’s face on our way back to the car which she tried to calm him from crying (um, not blowing smoke in his face might be a good start!). Do I have a right to even care? I’d genuinely like to hear your honest thoughts on this.
I did talk to one ex-smoker on the topic recently. She told me that when she was a smoker, she became so used to the smell, she didn’t even notice it if people lit up around her and didn’t think others would care. As a non-smoker, if someone lights up metres away, let alone right next to me, it affects me – and most of my non-smoking friends – to the point where we are no longer enjoying the meal/drinks we are paying for.
I’ve waited so long for the spring and was so much looking forward to sitting on terraces in the sunshine. Some restaurant owners seem to argue that if they banned smoking on the terraces, they’d lose business. My perspective is if you don’t, you’ll lose business. I think I will be spending much more time entertaining friends at home this spring and summer than risking meeting at a cafe inhaling second hand smoke.
I’ve just found this site and become a member: Clean Air Nederland