Appalled. Disgusted. Sad. In awe. But, mostly? Confused.
How is this possible? That is really allowed? No, but really… are they going to get in trouble? What if the principal or a teacher finds them? There are cops right there… maybe they will stop them. How do they even know how to smoke? How old are they? Is this normal?
All questions that spilled out of my mouth as I watched a group of young teenagers smoking cigarettes outside the main door of their high school. A gorgeous high school, I might add. A facade I was just previously admiring before blurred by plumes of smoke.
There are many Spanish laws that confuse me on a daily basis. As a general rule-follower, and an American raised to fear the law, my time in Spain has revealed how very cautious I actually am. I really thought that waiting until a light turned green to cross the street is a law that should always be obeyed. Especially when driving. Drinking wine in the streets. I believe this is technically illegal, but trust me- never truly enforced. (Especially if your wine is in my favorite traditional Spanish receptacle “la bota”). Drinking age. Prostitution. Labor laws. Visa stays. Spanish lawmaking brings a whole new meaning to 50 Shades of Grey.
The craziest shade of grey is related to smoking. I have researched and researched and I swear, the law states that one must be 18 years old to both purchase and to participate in the act of smoking. Truth is? No one really cares. 16 and your mom wants you to pick up a couple packs for her? Go for it. 14 years old and you want a cigarette in between classes? No problem. Need to bum one off of your teacher? No biggie.
As an American, it scares me. It is frightening how “normal” smoking is for young kids.
Although Spain recently outlawed smoking indoors at restaurants, bars, and cafes, this doesn’t mean that you are safe from the passive smoking inhalation during your al fresco dining experience with your bravas in the sun. There is no escape. I am constantly surprised by this cultural difference. Babies, children, those who are ill, pregnant women. Most countries in Europe appear to lack the cultural courtesy of protecting even the most sensitive groups of people from this horrible habit. This is a moment when I feel truly blessed to be American.
But don’t worry, Spain. Your bravas and verdejo make up for it.