Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Non-smoking Glass Box of Baden

I loved visiting Berlin because it was so free of the smoke that chokes Switzerland’s public transportation platforms. The train station at Potsdamer Platz was full of clear air and the floors were spotless, not a cigarette butt in sight.

It’s a very different site to come back to Zurich, where smoke rises from the tracks like it’s a bakery but smells more like a bar. I think what’s upsetting about this, is that as a non-smoker, I have no choice but to breathe this air. Set up smoking rooms, fine, but to just have the main transport artery of the country in such a disgusting environment doesn’t make Zurich seem very ahead of the times or classy. After all, this is the first impression most people get of the city.

While other European countries and cities are banning smoking in stations all together, or creating small walled-off smoking areas, in my town of Baden, it's just the opposite--they have one tiny non-smoking waiting room on the tracks. But since it's summer, it's way to hot to sit in a glass cage, (you can see where the non-smokers rank), so I have developed a new train waiting strategy. I stand as far away from all people as possible at the edge of the tracks and only when the train pulls up do I come closer. It’s just too disgusting. You move over to avoid smoke being blown in your face on one side, only to have someone on the other side’s ashes burning little holes in your clothes.

I liked what David Sedaris said about the Japanese smoking signs in his new book “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”. Instead of saying “Smoking will kill you,” the signs in Japan say things more hard-hitting, like “cigarettes are 700 degrees and you hold them at the height of a child’s head”. These signs more than anything else, make me really interested in visiting Japan. I think Switzerland could use signs like these. Because dying and caring about the health of others are not really a consideration here.

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