Smoking in Denmark

I always equated a wealthy, well-educated society, such as Denmark, with a health-conscious society. I think this is a general assumption, and in the case of Denmark was reinforced further in my mind when Denmark was the first country to introduce a fat tax (though we won’t go into the minefield of pros and cons of that law here!).

However, if Danes may be eating healthily, they have definitely not stopped smoking. A report by the World Health Organisation shows that around 25% of the Danish population are daily smokers. That’s a very significant proportion.

When looking at the statistics from other countries (e.g. UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Czech Republic) it is clear that smoking is more prevalent in Denmark than in these other countries (by over 10% when compared to Sweden) . From my experience, however, where Denmark differs from these countries in an even bigger way is in the way smoking is perceived.

The lack of consideration by smokers in Denmark is almost shocking! People seem to smoke everywhere. While in the UK (and most other countries I have been to, except the Czech Republic) smokers would politely move outside to smoke, in Denmark no one bats an eyelid if a smoker lights up right next to you. Even in small, quite enclosed spaces, such as bus shelters, people will be smoking; most days there is a smoker at my local one, and it is not the same one! I have even seen a mother waiting in the bus shelter with her young kid and smoking!

It seems to be perfectly acceptable to smoke in a room full of people, perfectly acceptable to smoke next to a pregnant woman, and perfectly acceptable to smoke next to children. What is even more shocking to me, however is that no one seems to comment.

Maybe the damage smoking does not just to you but to the people around you just hasn’t gotten through to Danes? Or maybe they really just don’t care? I am at a loss on this subject, so please do feel free to enlighten me!

11 thoughts on “Smoking in Denmark

  1. Once, I was recovering from a general anaesthetic outside a hospital on a bench. A woman came up to me and stared at me until I moved over (as they do), she then lit up.
    I was struggling with nausea at the time and I have asthma, so I gave her a death stare and got up.

    Honestly! What is with people?

    • Outside a hospital? That’s unacceptable! But not surprising, considering the entitlement I have seen by smokers in Denmark to smoke wherever they please.

  2. True dat. I think people here have misconception on what is considered healthy or not. Like you said, they’re generally health conscious but their diet mainly consist of meat and alcohol. and cigarettes, that is.

    I know some of my friends whose relatives keep telling them to eat rugbrød, because it’s healthy, but at the same time putting a slab of leverpostej on it and eat it with potatoes. There’s nothing wrong with it, but at some point it’s kinda double moral, if you know what I mean.

    • I think you forgot coffee and salt in that list 😉

      To be honest the Danish lifestyle never came across to me as particularly healthy (which I think holds for most cuisines). It was only lately that I was told by a Dane that their lifestyle is a healthy one…I am still trying to get my head around that to be honest.

  3. Well, I’ve seen an old woman smoking at teh bus shelter and coughing like she was dying and another woman frowned at her saying out loud “maybe you should fucking stop smoking”.

    • Happy to hear that! Not that an “old woman” was told off, but that Danes are willing to make a vocal stand against smoking.

  4. I see this after EVERY class at the gymnasium…. as teachers AND STUDENTS leave the building for a smoke… I HATE it. It is so taboo in the US so this is so hard for me to get used to seeing….

  5. Yes, quite a culture shock this one! Smoking is so taboo in Canada that it is quite different to find so many smokers and just how inconsiderate they can be.

  6. An American cigarette company figured out that the Czech Republic could save $147 million a year by not discouraging smoking. People die quicker so the whole country saves on pension costs. Here’s the link to the info at the end of my blog post. I’m surprised that a country as well-educated as Denmark still has so many smokers. In America, the only people still smoking are non-high school graduates.

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