According to The Economist's 2008 World Rankings Book, the average Serb (man, woman, and child) smokes 5.8 cigs per day, ranking them as the Top 9 Most Smoking Countries on Earth. That's a lot of smoking.
Greece comes in at #1 with 8.4 cigs per day; Macedonia is #2 at 7.1 cigs per day, Russia is #3 at 6.8, and Slovenia kicks Serbian smoker ass at #5 with 6.2 cigs per day. Bosnia is below at #13 (5.2 per day) and Croatia is not ranked on the list. Yet oddly, Croatia has by far the highest cancer deaths rate of the region at 167 deaths per 100,000 population. (Serbia spends a far higher percent of the GDP on public healthcare, so that may make the difference.)
OK, one might be tempted to make jokes about the confluence of the Orthodox Church and smoking, or the whole Slavic + Balkans and smoking thing.
Actually because I'm American and as everyone knows, Americans are all about money, I will say that I'm awfully tempted to do the math. That is ~8 million Serbs times 5.8 cigs per day times the average cost per cig... Frankly no one who smokes that much can tell me they are seriously poor. You may be stupid and/or smelly, but you certainly have some money in your pocket.
I say this as a former 20-year smoker. I like most of my generation in the US quit. Only 22% of Americans smoke and the rest are often former smokers who have the nastiness of converts when it comes to dealing with the still-smoking masses. Blech! Phew! Icky, icky-poo!
In fact the ONLY thing I worried about before moving to Sombor Serbia for this Summer and part of the fall was the smoke. Would I be unable to enjoy society, cafes and private get-togethers because of unremitting smoke? I'd heard and read on blogs online many horror stories - mainly about Belgrade.
Turns out it's not so bad in Sombor where we had many friends and relatives who did not smoke. Yeah, in one of the smokingest countries in the world I met a lot of non-smokers, and I wasn't expecting or seeking them out.
So I was lucky. But such is the prejudice against smoking here in the US, and yes I do agree with this cultural anti-smoking bent, that if I had to spend much time in Belgrade I would be worried about it. And I bet it's something the tourist board never considered....
Most shocking moment in Sombor: Seeing ash trays on display at an office supply store. Whoa - 1980s flash back!
So what's your take on smoking in Serbia? Does it stop you from enjoying the country, restaurants or society as you'd like to? Or do you just wish whining anti-smokers would shut up already?