Tobacco smoking is an activity that has come under fairly stringent controls in recent years. These days in most countries, smoking is prohibited in most or all indoor public spaces and inside public transport such as aircraft, buses and trains. Restrictions and enforcement vary considerably from place to place; for details see the rest of this article and our articles on particular destinations.
Smokeless tobacco products are also regulated in most parts of the world.
Many countries have restrictions on the quantity of cigarettes or tobacco that can be brought into the country. In many countries, tobacco products are taxed heavily, so travelers importing more than a few packets of these products should expect to pay import duties. On the other hand, many countries also have facilities that permit departing travelers to purchase these same products, duty free, at the border, as they leave the country.
Tobacco products vary enormously in price around the world, mainly because different countries or states tax them differently. For example, the price of a pack of Marlboro (converted to US dollars) ranges from about $1.50 in the Philippines (where they are common, made locally under license) to over $10 in Canada (where they are an imported luxury, subject first to duty and then to stiff taxes). It is common for smokers visiting countries with lower costs to stock up, and even non-smokers may buy cheap cigarettes as gifts.
Import restrictions and the penalties for violating them also vary considerably; check local information for each planned destination. The commonest rule allows a carton of 200 cigarettes (in some places, plus other products such as cigars) provided you have been out of the country at least a few days. Some places are much stricter; Hong Kong, for example, allow only one pack (20 cigarettes), apparently because the government wants to protect its tax revenue. This restriction is mainly to keep out the much cheaper cigarettes from China and enforcement concentrates on Chinese visitors; travellers from other places are rarely bothered.
Other smoking products
People who smoke products other than tobacco should be aware that cannabis is prohibited in many countries, while opium and crack are banned more-or-less everywhere, and other recreational substances tend to be banned as soon as the authorities become aware of them. In most legal systems having some item with traces of a drug — perhaps a used pipe or a pouch with few milligrams left in the bottom — counts legally as possession of the drug; if you do smoke such things and are travelling, do a thorough clean-up before any border. The safest course is to give away or throw away any item that might have traces.
In some places even having "drug paraphenalia" is illegal; just carrying an unused pipe can get you in trouble if the authorities decide it is a hash pipe. If you are going to cross borders with such a pipe, it may be a good idea to smoke some tobacco in it first.
Many countries impose severe penalties for attempting to import even a small quantity of an illegal drug. Even countries where marijuana is legal often ban importation because the government wants to control quality and/or to protect its tax revenue. Penalties range up to quite long prison sentences and, in a few countries, even to a death sentence, which applies even if you are unaware that drugs are in your possession. At the very least, in most countries, you will not be permitted to cross the border with the products still in your possession. Know the local laws.
Some tobacco products are consumed without smoking, such as chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco (snus) or snuff. They can function as a replacement where smoking is prohibited, but they are usually regulated, and in some cases prohibited.
Most countries now forbid smoking indoors in public places, and on most or all public transport. See our individual destination articles for details, or consult the many "Smoking in ..." articles on Wikipedia.
Other restrictions are fairly common as well; for example, many hotels forbid smoking in some or all of the rooms to protect the cleaning staff and the next customer from the smell and/or the health risks. Some places have stricter rules in play. Ottawa, for example forbids smoking within 9 m (30 feet) of most building entrances and in any part of a bar, even an outdoor patio, Hong Kong prohibits smoking in most public parks, and Dumaguete bans it on the streets.
In Asia, particularly in China, smoking is still something of a social activity, at least for men. Anyone with cigarettes will offer them around before he lights up; having an expensive brand is a status symbol. Female smokers may be thought odd; more men and fewer women smoke in Asia than in Western countries. Restaurants do not usually have non-smoking areas; many do not have ashtrays either. Areas such as bus stations may have "no smoking" signs, but these are often ignored. Non-smokers should be prepared to endure smoky rooms. Even in China, though, this is slowly changing. Smoking is now forbidden in many restaurants, at least in major cities.
In Europe, smoking is most prevalent in the southeastern part of the continent: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. These countries also have rather low levels of smoking ban enforcement, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, so be prepared to cope with smoke-filled public spaces.
Tobacco products around the world
Though tobacco is today grown around the world, the Caribbean and the southern United States have a rich tobacco heritage. In some areas tobacco or related products are commonly bought by tourists; two well-known examples are Havana cigars and meerschaum pipes picked up either at the source in Eskişehir or in the Istanbul bazaar.
Both the cost and the avaiable brands of smoking products vary greatly from place to place, partly because taxation and import rules vary hugely. A few brands such as American Marlborough or British 555 are quite widely available, but in many countries those will be expensive imports and all the cheaper smokes will be brands a traveller does not recognise. In some places, the local products may taste quite different as well; for example, the popular French brands Gitane and Galois are far stronger than most travellers will be used to.
Some countries have unusual tobacco products. India has small, cheap conical things called beedies, mainly smoked by those who cannot afford cigarettes. Indonesia has clove-laced cigarettes called rokok kretek (which means "clove cigarettes").
Travel for smokers
Tobacco is of course addictive — that is why it is so profitable both for companies and governments — and addicts may become quite uncomfortable when deprived of their drug. In particular, long air journeys can make heavy smokers downright miserable, especially since large parts of most airports are non-smoking as well. The withdrawal symptoms are quite genuine, and reflecting that the addiction is self-inflicted just makes it worse.
Many travelling smokers just suffer through this or try to sleep. Some dose themselves with tranquilizers or large amounts of alcohol, which may help some but is not recommended since those substances have their own dangers — in fact, mixing booze and tranquilizers can be fatal — and it is a very bad idea to be stoned or hung over when trying to deal with border controls at the destination.
A better solution is to look on a long flight as an opportunity to quit. If you can resist the urge to light up the instant that becomes possible on arrival — instead go shopping, sightseeing or partying, or just fall over and sleep off the jet lag — then you are well on your way to quitting. The first few days are by far the worst and a flight gets you through one day without requiring any willpower (won't power?) from you. Consider going the rest of the way yourself.
Whether or not you are quitting, it is a good idea to carry nicotine gum for long flights. Heavy smokers who travel a lot should just leave a pack of this permanently in their favorite piece of hand luggage. The gum is marketed mainly as an aid to quitting, a way to reduce nicotine addiction pangs in new non-smokers. However, it can also be used by unrepentant addicts to help deal with long flights. Chewing any sort of gum also reduces the chance of ear problems due to pressure changes during a flight. Other products such as nicotine patches are an alternative.
Have a method for safely getting rid of stumps without littering. There are probably ashtrays here and there, but hardly at every place where you might want to light a cigarette. A small box with a tight lid can be usable as portable ashtray.