Tag Archives: social norms

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!