The Number One Reason...

... Why I'm going home to California? It's summed up in this New York Times story on smoking in Spain.

Nearly 45 percent of women ages 25 to 44 now smoke regularly, compared with 34 percent in 1987, according to Spain's National Institute for Statistics. The country's 15-year-olds smoke more than any of their European peers, World Health Organization statistics show.

Although no-smoking signs abound, many people still ignore them. "If you ask someone to put out their cigarette on a bus or the Metro," said a 28-year-old Valencia native, Amparo Cervantes, "they look at you like you're the one who's being rude."

Unless you live here, you have no idea how bad it is. The story sort of suggests that attitudes are changing, but they're not. If anything in the past four years I've lived here, it's just gotten worse. Non-smokers are persecuted and ridiculed here and it makes social life next to impossible, since every place where people gather from outdoor cafes to restaurants to waiting rooms to offices are always filled to the brim with smokers.

I quit a job here because coworkers refused to stop smoking at their desks and management just laughed off my concerns as a stupid American foible. And at my last job I made mortal enemies with a Spanish coworker by insisting that the zone around me and the other Americans have no smoke in it at all times - even if they're just passing by with a cigarette in their hand. And I swear, the guy actually said to me "what about *my rights* as a smoker?" I don't even know where to begin...

If there's one thing that stops me every time when I double-think the move back home, it's the smoke. I think "hey, I can make it work here," then I remember what it's really like living here and I can't wait to get back to my smoke free offices and restaurants in California. Maybe in 10 or 20 years Spain'll have gotten a clue and we can come back and retire here, but until then I can't imagine raising a family here - especially with all those teens smoking as well, Alex would have little chance of being a non-smoker here. No thanks.


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