About a third of Argentines smoke, including nearly 40 percent of the male population; tobacco directly causes about 40,000 deaths per annum. According to one survey, 3 of every 10 Argentine cardiologists smoke, as do 3 of every 10 students between the ages of 13 and 15.
Still, there is widespread recognition that the habit is unhealthy; the city of Buenos Aires and an increasing number of provinces have enacted stringent antismoking ordinances that have purified the air in restaurants and other enclosed areas (though one ironic effect has been to concentrate smokers at patio and sidewalk tables where tobacco is still permitted). If faced with secondhand smoke in inappropriate places, such as buses or taxis, it’s easiest to appeal to courtesy with a white lie such as “soy asmático” (I’m asthmatic).
Sin Pucho (Gallo 812, Buenos Aires, tel. 011/4862-6913, www.sinpucho.org.ar) is an ex-smokers’ support group.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition