"The Ministry of Health warns: smoking is a poison!" (©). But jokes are jokes, and not all the inhabitants of Portugal are ready to obey this message. Thus, in this article, we will discuss the culture of smoking (its absence, frankly speaking) in the country to understand it from this side.
Portugal is still one of the most smoking countries in Western Europe. Until recently, people smoked here almost everywhere, even in school (I mean its territory), and at least some restrictions were introduced only in 2016, and as for me, they sounded relatively soft: "a prohibition on smoking in playgrounds and areas near the doors and windows of medical and educational institutions". Thank God smoking is prohibited in public transport (trains, buses, trams), but relatively easy there is someone who wants to pass the time with a cigarette on the platform or bus stop, in general, where you also have to wait.
The problem is in numbers
Data on tobacco consumption statistics in Portugal are irresponsible. According to one estimate, there are 1.5 million smokers in Portugal, of whom about 1.2 million smoke daily. The Azores region has the highest number of smokers (23.4%), followed by the Alentejo (19.1%) and the Algarve (18.6%). Concerning age, most smokers are between the ages of 25 and 34 (27.6%), followed by 35-44 (24.9%) and 45-54 (22.6%). According to other sources, as much as a quarter of the Portuguese are smokers, and 75% of them started smoking before the age of 18, which puts the country in this suspicious achievement in the first place in the European list. Yes, unfortunately, Portugal is one of the countries where people start smoking before anyone else. However, even if we calculate the first and second estimates of Portugal's total population (about 10 million people according to the data for 2022), the numbers are pretty impressive. But, to our great pleasure, Portugal is not even in the top 8 in the world ranking published recently by statista. Not everything is so bad.
You will most likely be surprised by the lack of respect for people in terms of protecting them from passive smoking: ashtrays at airports, shopping centers, and other institutions are installed precisely at the entrance and, accordingly, when opening automatic doors, all smoke penetrates the premises - no logic. But this is all without any malicious intent. It's just that the Portuguese don't think about it and are so used to it, and it's impossible to retrain especially elderly tobacco lovers.
It is not habitual to comment on this subject here. However, even if a person smokes almost in your face, I believe you will be considered really rude if you think about shaming someone with a cigarette.
Interestingly, not very rich Portuguese smoke on average 1-1.5 packs per day (with the price of about 5 euros each), which in monetary terms adds about 150-200 euros to monthly expenses. Let me remind you that many Portuguese have salaries close to the minimum - and this is only 760 euros in 2023.
The Ministry of Health SNS is trying to conduct an active fight against smoking, issuing articles and recommendations while medics prescribe drugs to treat nicotine addiction. The government's objective for the coming year is to reduce smoking to less than 15%. The advantages of quitting smoking are given both in the short and long term - with examples of what will follow in the intervals from 20 minutes to 10-15 years after quitting smoking (stabilization of blood pressure, general improvement in the condition of the body, reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes, etc.)
Despite the appeals of medics and terrible images, which are mandatory for every pack of cigarettes sold, the percentage of smokers remains high. Until recently, they felt pretty comfortable inside bars and restaurants, and verandas are still not smoke-free. Only from January 1, 2023, the government has introduced some restrictions regarding smoking indoors. There is no complete ban, but there are conditions that many catering establishments cannot comply with. These include, for example, the minimum area of the room where you can determine a smoking area (100 m2) or ceiling height (at least 3m) and other tricks. It must be understood that there are fewer places for smoking, but we are not talking about a complete ban on smoking.
Another of the restrictive measures is the limitation of places for sale: cigarettes in Portugal are not sold in grocery markets and other public and frequently visited locations. They can be bought either at newsstands or in special vending machines. They are usually located on the territory of bars, but sometimes they appear in bakeries and confectioneries (remember that there are no age limitations, anyone, including a teenager, can buy them in a vending machine). Although it is worth mentioning that young people have started to smoke less in recent years, smoking is abused, mainly by middle-aged and older people.
From personal experience
Does this tobacco madness get in the way? Actually, not really, because in Portugal the sun is almost constantly shining, people are smiling, you are rolling on a positive ocean wave, and there is absolutely no desire to squabble. In this regard, it is probably easier to follow Zhvanetsky: "If you don't like the smell, move away." To put it mildly, many people, even smokers, are surprised by local "customs" in this regard. For those with health problems, passive smoking exacerbates them, which is a real problem.
I was utterly discouraged by the doctor's question at the reception of my (at that time still 13-year-old) son: after the standard height/weight examinations of the "doutor" she asked - does he smoke? I was confused and reacted that he was only 13 years old, to which she shook her head, smiled, and said that he was a good boy!
If everything is treated with positivity and humor, then no features of the Portuguese mentality, even if they are unhealthy, can outweigh the fantastic qualities of life in Portugal. You can learn more about many of its aspects from our articles. Our website also has a lot of helpful information for those who are just about to come and those who are already in Portugal: you can get answers to your questions regarding the selection of housing, and consult with a lawyer remotely in a comfortable environment for you. Scroll through the list of services, and you will find many valuable things, for example, cryptocurrency exchange and much more.