Copenhagen: Smoking it Up

Posted on June 7, 2006

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queen smoking.jpgby sabine behrmann

The general Danish attitude towards laws, rules, and regulations is that you obey them, if you find them reasonable. This frustrates many Americans who live here and amuses quite a few Europeans who find this slightly anarchistic attitude refreshing. There have been quite a few occasions when laws were amended by the Danish parliament because nobody was obeying them anyway.

However things are changing, and nowhere is this more obvious than where smoking is concerned. Where ten years ago about 65 % of the adult Danish population smoked, there now are just about 25 %. It’s not good enough, we are told – and every now and then people are demanding a tougher stand on smoking bans from the government.

They had a law passed last year that demands from restaurants, cafés and other public places that they have their smoking policies written down and place in clear sight of anyone who would want to know.

This has not been enforced. Nobody gets charged for not doing so. The police have no resources for checking up on this anyway, and nothing has happened. The minister of health is a firm believer in the forces of a free market and sees no reason for further action.

But all isn’t lost. Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark, aged 66, and one of the prominent smokers of the world, has just received a new knee. In hospitals smoking is banned – and there were discussions going on whether the management of Århus hospital would dare to defy her Majesty’s need for nicotine. After all, she is an elderly lady and cannot be expected to be able to give up this habit.

The management did have the guts not to make an exception, though. Well, if the politicians don’t want to act the doctors will have to.