Monday, January 3, 2011

Two New European Bans You Should Know About Before You Cross the Pond

Buying cheese in Roma (photo by Eric Molina)
Lung cancer and overflowing landfills--it goes without saying that we're all against those two evils, right? But the concrete, and I'd say necessary, steps to combat these problems can cause inconveniences, especially for travelers. Take this blog as a heads up and not as a condemnation of these new bans, which I think are overdue and hopefully will spread to other areas of the world.

Ciao Plastic Bags
One of the greatest delights of vacationing in Italy is shopping, whether it be for ceramic bowls, fresh fruit or designer fashions. But you're going to have to do a bit more planning before you hit the stores in 2011. As of January 1, it is illegal for Italian stores to give out plastic bags. Stores are being allowed to use up those they have in stock, but after that shoppers will be left to juggle their purchases on their own. Meaning that tourists are well advised to pack a foldable, small extra bag in their luggage to take along on their daily outings.

In today's USAToday piece on the topic the author, and several readers, pointed out that similar bans already exists in Mexico City, San Francisco and Toronto; and that fees for plastic bags have cut their use by as much as 50% in China and Ireland. (Other areas where the plastic bags are being taxed include North Carolina's Outer Banks, a number of cities in California, and on the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai.)

Adios Cigarettes
Just after the turn of the New Year, Spain joined a number of other European countries in banning smoking in all "enclosed public spaces". That includes restaurants, bars and, interestingly, hotel rooms. Hoteliers are being asked to reserve no more than 30% of their rooms for the use of smokers, so if you need a room to light up in, you may need to make reservations earlier rather than later.

As the daughter of a mother with emphysema, caused by years of smoking, I applaud Spain's decision which will safeguard the health of restaurant and hotel workers (as well as other patrons of these establishments). And hey, I can't think of a lovelier place to kick the nicotine habit. Maybe this will be incentive for smokers to plan a Spanish vacation soon.

Happy New Year to all, by the way!

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in a country where free plastic bags are handed out non-stop (Australia) and I now live in Finland, where bags cost 15 to 30 cents apiece. It's amazing how quickly you adapt and remember to bring your own, once you know it will hit your wallet. And it's no big deal to bring bags. It amazes me when I read some of the complaints out there - you don't leave the house without your keys, but do people spend all day complaining that they have to carry their keys to the shop? The sooner it becomes normal to live without disposable plastic, the better!