Smokescreen

It is not going too far to suggest that Bucharest (and Romania as a whole) has become a better place since March, when tough pro-health legislation outlawed smoking in almost all public indoor spaces.

It is enough to visit a restaurant and see how many families with children can enjoy eating out without fearing for their health. We were at the rather good Pescarus this past weekend and almost every other table in the impressive main dining room was occupied by a family.

One wall is taken up by large, floor-to-ceiling windows which can all be fully opened, creating a rather pleasant semi-terrace. And yet, because the three other walls are permanent, no smoking is allowed anywhere. Those who do want to smoke can sit outside on the actual, fully open air terrace.

If some rather nasty amendments to the current law are approved by parliament, smoking would be permitted in the area of Pescarus currently packed with families. In fact, just about any indoor space could once again become a smoking area. Bucharest’s old monicker of ‘The Smoking Section of Europe’ would once again be appropriate.

In a speech on Thursday the Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu spoke out against the new proposals, and condemned the Senate Health Committee (surely Ill Health Committee?) which has already approved them.

Before becoming a minister Voiculescu founded and ran an NGO which imported chemotherapy tablets from abroad and made them available (for free) to Romanians who could not afford to buy them. He knows what smoking can do to people, as any Minister of Health should. As he pointed out in his speech, more than 42,000 Romanians die each year of smoking-related diseases. And yet the country’s Senate Health Committee wants to reverse anti-smoking legislation. Parliament will vote on the senate’s amendments next week.

No, sometimes you really can’t make it up.

The key question of course is why is this matter even back on the agenda? After all, anti-smoking laws were passed, they were accepted by most of the population and have by and large been impeccably well respected. Why is this matter even back on the political agenda?

Short answer: the PSD (for it is they).

The PSD is well aware of the fact that December’s elections present possibly its last opportunity to ever form a government alone (or with compliant coalition partners such as the ALDE and the UDMR). Its core electorate (the elderly) is dying off fast. The new, dynamic, hedonistic generation of young Romanians does not share its reactionary values. As such, the PSD needs to get its core support out to vote more than ever. Repealing the pro-health bill that outlawed smoking in all indoor public spaces is a populist move designed to do just that: old people smoke, old people vote, and old people vote PSD.

Progressives must do all they can to block these amendments and keep Romania safe for our children. But are there enough of them?

10 thoughts on “Smokescreen

  1. Only problem now with the smoking ban is the Families with very young children. I’ve cut right down on going to restaurants because I recently vomited into my pasta when a stupid kunt of a mother at the next table changed the kids nappy, spilling shit all over the place! Please bring back smokers….all is forgiven.

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      1. Mind you Parmo, on the other hand, it’s nice being able to sit at a bar, a place where children are not allowed and not smell like an ashtray after 5 minutes. Decent serious restaurants should ban families with very young children, and explain that it’s not right for their kids to be running amok or faffing about with noisey gadgets.

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      2. Kids belong in McDonalds.

        Bars, casinos, restaurants etc… should have decent ventilation, which is widely available with today’s technology. Why destroy business when you can improve business?!

        Banning stuff is a remainder of Communism. When Communists don’t like something, they ban it, they impose silence upon it, they isolate it etc… instead of improving themselves, letting market rules take control and adapting to the market.

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  2. quick fact check:
    – young people smoke more than older people in Romania (page 30 of this PDF doc: http://media.hotnews.ro/media_server1/document-2016-01-27-20756140-0-studiu-ires-fumatul-romania-2016.pdf )
    – the anti-smoking law was proposed by a PSD MP, Aurelia Cristea from Cluj
    – Voiculescu actually smuggled, not imported, those chemo tablets, as they are usually not available OTC in Western Europe; and the drugs weren’t made available for free by Voiculescu, just that he didn’t charge for transport on top of their OTC price.
    – also, the PSD electorate isn’t dying off fast :))

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    1. No chemo tablets are available over the counter, just as most prescriptipn drugs aren’t. But in Romania they were not available at all. I would hardly call what he did smuggling: he was saving lives.

      And yes, it was a PSDista who proposed the anti-smoking law but a PSDist who proposed the amendments.

      And I would argue that the PSD’s electorate is dying off: who, under 30, votes PSD? The unemployed perhaps.

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      1. I use ‘smuggling’ in a narrow legal sense. I am not an ethicist to judge the short-term and long-term effects of his actions.
        Re the impending death of the PSD electorate, announced since times immemorial (i.e. 1996), remember the median voter theorem – parties target the center.

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  3. Yeaaah, repeal the law!! Business owners should be the only ones to decide if smoking is allowed in their premises or not.

    I don’t think the electorate of the PSD will ever be dying. Actually I think the party will be in better shape as the time goes by. Everybody said that PSD electorate will die, but the party is as strong in voting intention as it was in 2000 during the times of Adrian Nastase. And think about what this party has been through since then!

    In Romania, the proportion of population over 65 increased from 12.50% in 2000 to
    14.94% in 2010. In 2020 the aged population will be 17.43 % and in 2030, 20.25%.

    As Traian Basescu said: “if you’re not a Socialist when you’re young, you would be stupid not to be a Socialist when you’re old” :)))))))

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