Recently, a law was passed in Albania. It will ban smoking in all indoor establishments, starting September 15. It has been tried before, and was wildly unsuccessful. This time however, there are some hefty fines involved. The cafe where the person is found smoking can also be written a $300 citation. As well as, cost the individual and waiter $50 each.
These past few weeks, my coworkers, the health inspector and I walked around the city to promote this new law. Most of these stops were accompanied by some yelling, arguments and disapproving glances. One owner saw us coming and quickly tried to hide all of the ashtrays that were on the tables inside. Another man got into a screaming match with my coworker. Sometimes, it feels as though she puts on an act for me, and she was not backing down. Overall, throughout the city, most business owners didn’t have a problem with the new law. Then again, everyone is already smoking outside because it is still summer. But as a young cafe owner told us, that will all change in the winter, when everyone is huddled inside. As I sat and talked to my coworker that afternoon, I couldn’t hide my cynical view point. I kept asking her if she really thought things will change. Or will this be just another opportunity for bribes that will slide under the table?
The first day of the month, brings that painful day known as rent day. My landlord owns a cafe at the top of the hill and as usual, paying rent was accompanied by a coffee.
Later on, a younger man and his friend came inside to have a coffee. As he was waiting for her to make his macchiato, he lit up his cigarette. Without thinking twice, my landlord yelled across the room that if he wants to smoke, he has to do it outside. My head snapped towards her and I swear to you, my mouth almost dropped open in amazement. Sometimes it’s hard to not let the skepticism get to you. It can be hard to see improvement and very easy to see the corruption. But my landlord quickly reminded me today, they deserve more credit than I was handing out. Slowly, but surely, progress is being made and that’s all we can really ask for.