What a Smoker Says When He Wants to Smoke in a Nonsmoker's Household, by Year

1998: Could you pass me that ashtray?

2003: Am I allowed to smoke in here?

2008: I'm going outside for a smoke. Do you happen to have an ashtray?

That's based on my experience in German households with more than 100 books. I know that's not a large representative sample and some of this may be explained by an age effect, but there is no doubt that tolerance for smoking has decreased during the last ten years. That's surprising because no big news about the dangers of smoking have emerged in that period. This phenomenon lends credence to the sociological view that sometimes norms change not because of changes in knowledge or other changes in a society, but simply because they are taken over from elsewhere - in this case the USA. It's a matter of fashion.

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