Smoking | Freedom Worth Dying For?

As the door to Café Einhorn opens, a draft of icy winter air surges into the room. For a fleeting moment, our lungs suck in the oxygen before it dissolves into the yellow haze of dozens of cigarettes, preserving the bar’s reputation as one of the smokiest in Vienna.

Tourists and expats are often amazed to find you can still smoke in bars and restaurants in Vienna – and report being bewildered by the blatant ignorance of the health benefits of a smoking ban.

For many, it’s their first run-in with an “Austrian solution” – one where a way is found to make space for both sides of an argument. For those concerned with health consequences, many places are smoke free. But if space allows, bars and restaurants can offer both, and small Lokale can choose. Plenty of options; everybody’s happy. Some restaurants had even returned to the courtesies of earlier times when smoking was only allowed once the kitchen was closed. Good manners can make laws unnecessary.

But there was still that EU directive hanging over Austria’s collective head, and in August 2015, a complete smoking ban was passed to take effect in May 2018, under vehement protest from the restaurant industry. To some, it seemed we had finally come to our senses.

And then, the new government reversed the decision once again, calling off the smoking ban. Vice chancellor H.C. Strache, a onepack-a-day man himself, voiced publicly what many Austrians only dare say from the safety of their Stammtisch: We will not let those “Großkopferte” (bigwigs) take away our freedom. We will keep smoking – even if it kills us.

Back at the Einhorn, the bartender lights up another cigarette. The Sex Pistols are playing from the dusty speakers, supporting his cry for revolution – or in this case, the lack of one. Austrian smokers have won the battle. And even if the war isn’t over yet, at least for tonight, all’s well in their nicotine-filled world.

Andreas Rainer
Andreas Rainer is a journalist and writer based in Vienna. He lived across the pond in the U.S. and Canada for three years which gave him a new love for Vienna from an outsider's perspective. He headed the Vienna branch of the San Francisco based food app Yelp for the past six years, making him a prime source of insider knowledge on new restaurants hidden bars. He authored the Guide Book Vienna for Germans (2017) and made the short list (2015) and long list (2016) for the "Wortlaut" short fiction contest, tweets at @an_rainer


You like local independent journalism in English? So do we!

To keep providing you with current news, insights, opinion and Schmäh about our shared hometown, we need your help.
We chose to provide our daily coverage for free, because we believe in equal access to information. And we want to be independent from our advertisers, so we can deliver the news that you want. With your help, we can keep giving you the open, independent journalism you deserve.

Don’t let the advertisers win!


If you’re able, please support Metropole today from as little as €1
or choose an amount:

RECENT Articles

The Coronavirus in Austria | First Incidents, Few Fears

While some make dystopian jokes, others are buying the last face masks on the Internet. How the country is dealing with COVID-19.

3 Ways to Swear Like a Real Wiener

Entire books have been written about the ingenious ways the Viennese swear, rant, yammer and nag. And we know how to help you get acquainted with the high art of Viennese swearing.

The Burgtheater’s (im)Perfect Crib

Real time surtitles in German and English now make it possible for non-German speakers and the hard of hearing to enjoy Vienna’s greatest stage. But maybe you don’t need them.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” of Austria

Better known by her nickname “Sissi,” she has captured the hearts of the public ever since she was immortalized by actress Romy Schneider in a trilogy of 1950s romantic comedies.

Donald Tusk’s Clear Voice

Welcoming to Scotland, the perennial European is not about to leave the political stage.

“Mein Fall” | Austrian Writer Tells of Sexual Abuse

As a choirboy at the Zwettl Monastery in the 1960s, novelist Josef Haslinger was regularly assaulted by his superiors. Now he wrote about it.

Passing the Baton

The Vienna Theatre Project meditates on MLK’s last night on earth in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop.”

5 Anti-Valentine’s Day Movies | It’s Difficult to Love

If the most saccharine of holidays is starting to get to you, here are five sobering – some would say more realistic – portrayals of human emotion.