(Author’s note: this post reflects personal opinion and is not meant to offend those that choose to smoke.)
I hate cigarettes. The smell, the taste, the way smoke embeds itself into clothing and hair…ugh. It can take days for the stench to dissipate from a favorite jacket or an extensive hair washing or two to rid of the smell. This goes without mentioning how bad cigarettes are for your health and the potential quality of life problems they can create.
Essentially, I’ve lived a relatively smoke free life. My parents are non-smokers and my friends too refrain from lighting up. In fact, of all the people I spend quality time with, I can’t think of one smoker. I suppose since I’ve been active in athletics my entire life and the fact that I’m currently employed as a professional athlete factors into these realities as well.
From high school until now, I have never found myself in a situation where I had felt pressured to try ‘be cool’ or ‘fit in’ by smoking. Perhaps it was the people I associated with or an unspoken respect that I was given. Clearly, I was not interested in the tobacco filled sticks and had never been inclined to try.
In 2008, British Columbia passed a law prohibiting smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces. Before this law was passed, most restaurants and public areas had already enforced this type of law themselves, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment.
Washington State bettered BC’s law by almost 3 years in 2005, suggesting “all Washington residents had the right to breathe clean air.” I don’t think I could agree more. In fact, I didn’t even realize smoking was allowed indoors until traveling across the United States with my college basketball team for away games. Eating pre-game meals in restaurants from Texas to Minnesota, Illinois to Iowa, I found myself holding my breath while trying to enjoy dinner. Only then did I realize how progressive and thankful I was to be born and raised in the Northwest. Currently, Canada enforces a nationwide ban on smoking in all public indoor areas, whereas in the United States still does not have a national ban.
I don’t have a problem with smokers – it’s a lifestyle choice. I just don’t enjoy being subjected to the byproduct of a cigarette when I personally choose not to smoke. Secondhand smoke is just as harmful as puffing on a cigarette. Non-smokers who breathe in secondhand smoke take in nicotine and other toxic chemicals just as smokers do. It’s harmful and there is nothing I hate more than breathing in a cloud of someone’s smoke. Cough, cough!
I wasn’t really affected by European smoking laws until my 2nd season in Portugal. (Finland and Sweden like Washington State had imposed smoking bans in public places in 2005.) Though smoking indoors was discouraged, it wasn’t enforced. I was shocked by the number of people (and ages!) I saw lighting up in Portugal. It seemed to be a part of the culture – one that was thoroughly embraced. As much as I tried to distance myself from the fumes, it proved to be nearly impossible. As much as I disliked inhaling the harmful toxins, I found ways to live with it.
Aside from bars and nightclubs, Luxembourg was much better than Portugal. Secondhand smoke became more of an issue when I took trips to Germany, France, Belgium and Greece. Germany and Greece were by far the worst, with very few anti-tobacco laws. Smoking was evident anywhere and everywhere. I remember while in Athens visiting friends and practicing with a Greek team, I was shocked to see the team’s administration light up on the sidelines while we were running lines on the court. Unbelievable! Friends who have played in Greece said it was not unusual to play under a constant cloud of smoke. Wow. It should be no surprise that Greece has the highest rate of tobacco consumption in the EU at 40%.
Here in Spain, I have a much better appreciation of the laws Canada has imposed and enforced. Never have I lived in a country where it was next to impossible to find a smoke free environment indoors. Since arriving to Ferrol in September, I struggled to enjoy my daily café con leche(s), rarely entertained the idea of eating out and couldn’t stand spending more than an hour in a small nightclub or bar. The smokey fog that blanketed every indoor facility made routine activities unbearable. The constant smell and cloudiness that filled my lungs with each breath made me sick, to the point that I started avoiding social gatherings. I couldn’t handle the irritating environment anymore. Upset with how smoking was affecting my social life, I was beyond ecstatic in early December when learning Spain planned to impose a national anti-tobacco law on January 1, 2011 in all indoor facilities. Translating newspaper articles, watching TV interviews and questioning Spanish friends, I had a feeling the ban would be ineffective and people would continue to do as they pleased. Spanish people are very proud and somewhat indignant – a new law was not going to stop them from chain smoking while enjoying their afternoon wine/beer/vermouth.
Returning after Christmas, I began counting down the days until I could enjoy a café at my favorite bar while breathing clean air. When the New Year finally arrived, I was shocked to find that for the most part, Spaniards have been abiding by the anti-tobacco law. Though still clearly upset about it, I find it somewhat amusing to see packs of people huddled outside doorsteps after sipping on coffee, running outside for a smoke, only to return and finish their beverage. This is a huge step for Spain and by the end of the year I’m sure it will be a non-issue.
Ser Fuerte España!
Basketball Update: As alluded to in my previous posts, 2011 has not been easy for us. With only 8 roster players and 2 currently injured, practice situations and game rosters are not ideal. We lost our first game after Christmas break by 7. It was one of those games that you'd love to replay. Leading most of the match, we saw our advantage slowly diminish as we entered the 4th quarter. Never able to get the defensive stop we needed to get something going, it was a very disappointing loss. Lugo deserved the win. This weekend was as important as the last. With 6 players dressed and a junior player on the bench in case of emergency - it was not looking good. Facing a team with the largest frontline in the league (including 6'6" Krista Phillips, member of the Canadian National Team) our focus was to stay out of foul trouble not let the ball inside. I don't know how we did it, but we managed to pull out a 4 point victory that was determined in the final minutes. With our fans screaming at the top of our their lungs our starting PG fouling out with 2 minutes to play, we came together and screamed with relief when the final buzzer sounded. Phew! Time to start a winning streak.
Sidenote: The provided pictures are from my most recent 'getaway' to the beautfiul city of La Coruña, the former capital of Galicia and a 50 minute ride from Ferrol.