Photo: Flickr user Malte Schmidt
Smoking remains very popular in Austria. With about 2.5 million smokers in the 20 to 50 year-old age range—or about 60—its population approaches near-world-record status for percentage of smokers. Among teenagers about 15 years of age, 24 percent of boys smoke. Among girls, the rate actually rises to 30 percent. Overall, something like 40 percent of those 15 to 20 smoke regularly.
So if you’re sensitive to tobacco smoke, be aware that you may encounter more smoking in Salzburg than you may be accustomed to. In 2010, new regulations on smoking in public places went into effect. However, these are not as restrictive as those in many other countries, and smoking may still occur in restaurants, bars and cafés.
The new rules call for establishments under 50 square metres to be either wholly non-smoking or to allow smoking. Larger restaurants and bars are required to provide non-smoking sections. Red or green signs must be posted to alert customers whether the establishment or the area is smoke-free or not. However, you may find the signs hard to spot.
In reality, the rules are not well enforced. Non-smoking areas may be located beyond smoking areas, meaning diners pass through the smoking area before arriving at their tables in non-smoking areas. Or the separation between areas may be open, so smoke drifts into supposedly smoke-free zones.
If you want to be seated in a non-smoking section, be sure to specify your wish clearly when making reservation. You’ll need to be pro-active: The person taking the booking may not ask your preference. Once you’re seated, it can be difficult to change your table to one in a different area.
Also keep in mind that smoking is not regulated in open-air dining areas and guest gardens, so in outdoor settings you may find yourself seated near smokers. This is not likely to change soon; a 2010 poll found only 19 percent of Austrians supported stricter smoking bans.