Health-conscious Krakow goes smoke free

The Smoke-Free Premises campaign has been in full swing in Krakow since March 2007. With close to 70 local businesses, including restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and bars signing up, the campaign is intending to take its success nationwide. Organized by the Manko Association in Krakow, the grassroots campaign aims at raising awareness of the damage caused by second-hand smoke, encouraging local businesses to establish a smoke-free environment. In return, the campaign provides advertising for supporting businesses in their posters, maps, articles in their monthly magazine and information on their web site. Among the many businesses providing campaign support are Massolit Books and Cafe, Dynia Cafe Bar, the Siesta Cafe and the Leopolis Hotel.The Smoke-Free Premises campaign will hit Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan and Katowice by September of this year. Ewa Zamoscinska, the project manager responsible for generating awareness among local businesses, says there is wide interest in the campaign already with 30 businesses signing up in Warsaw alone. The quickest way to sign up is via the internet on the campaign’s web site.The Smoke-Free Premises campaign intends to provide residents in every Polish city with the choice of a smoke-free environment while dining out or sitting in a pub. Lukasz Salwarowski, the Association’s president, claims that Poland cannot rely on legislative changes to implement smoke-free areas. Instead, the campaign is aimed at “providing such a solution by creating local awareness to the problem from the grassroots level, providing punters with the choice, and avoiding strict governmentally imposed prohibitions.” Salwarowski added that “Poles by nature hate being told what they can and cannot do. Choice, therefore, is the obvious option. The Smoke-Free Premises campaign is about providing that choice. You can choose not to breathe second-hand smoke by selecting a cafe or restaurant that will offer you the option of a smoke-free environment. We just need to make sure that customers have the possibility to make that choice.” So far 70 businesses in Krakow have signed up, with 28 restaurants and cafes already completely smoke-free. The remaining businesses have provided customers with smoke-free areas within premises. Elzbieta Bisada-Bogdan, manager of the historical Wierzynek restaurant which sponsored the campaign and was the first restaurant in Krakow to go smoke-free over a year and a half ago, pointed out that “smoke-free environments are a standard these days, with hospitality industries having a responsibility to not only look after the health of their customers but also of their employees.” Wierzynek has seven smoke-free areas and one smokers’ lounge in the restaurant. This is a progressive statement, given the reluctance of the hospitality sector mentality to consider workers’ health concerns. Zamoscinska says “there is a lot of hospitality staff out there, from barmen to waiters, who are disgruntled at their employers’ approach to second-hand smoke. Many employers still have a ‘like it or lump it’ mentality when it comes to smoking and are hard to convince of the detrimental health factors.” Poland is a long way off in following other EU countries such as France and England, which have completely prohibited smoking in public places. The “major problem is law enforcement. You can pass a statute, but who will control and monitor that it will be abided by? We already have enacted laws prohibiting smoking in public areas, but no one is enforcing them,” said Andrzej Furmanik of the Krakow County Wicestarosta (Vice County Deputy). Enticing business owners seems to be the most viable solution. Marek Jachowicz from the health promotion department in Krakow’s Municipal Council recalled that in 1996 a local municipal act was passed giving a 15 percent discount on municipal rent to proprietors implementing smoke-free environments. While the option is still available, very little municipal property is rented out to the hospitality industry. One concern is whether fewer customers would visit smoke-free places. Bisada-Bogdan claims that smoke-free areas are more successful in the hospitality industry. “Our internal studies have shown that customers want smoke-free alternatives. Even smokers ask for tables in smoke-free rooms. The number of customers we may have lost to our smoke-free policy is estimated as less than one percent,” she said. Michal Konopa, manger of a local real-estate business, expresses his delight in the campaign: “Finally changes are evident. I have been sick to death of reeking of smoke every time I venture out for a beer or meal. Poles need to adjust their mentality when it comes to smoking. We have implemented so many changes in our society in the last 16 years ? this is peanuts in comparison. If the Parisians can do it, then surely Krakovians don’t have too much to whine about.”Smoking related health concerns have also kicked off the Responsible Selling campaign aimed at vendors selling cigarettes to minors. The campaign is organized by the Malopolska Regional Council, and wants to target the 92 percent of businesses across the region selling cigarettes to under-aged kids. Janusz Gruca, the managing organizer, says the campaign will be in full swing by autumn this year. The Manko Association is a non-profit organization established by students in 1998 and has transgressed the university boundaries by taking on social awareness and environmental projects across the city.
Smoke-free restaurants, hotels, bars or cafes can be recognized by stickers indicating support for the campaign. A map of the smoke-free premises in Krakow is available from the campaign’s web site:; or, by contacting:

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