In the Netherlands, "secondhand smoke" takes on a whole new meaning.
The country is among the last in the European Union to impose a smoking ban in restaurants. Or rather, a cigarette ban. Make it a tobacco ban. Because while the smoking of conventional cigarettes was officially forbidden starting last week, marijuana is still allowed at the 720 cafes where it already was in wide use.
Of course, marijuana is illegal, even in the Netherlands, but the country's policy of "geodegen" calls for turning a blind eye to its own law. In fact, the special cannabis cafes are licensed to sell small amounts for consumption on the premises, where it is understood that customers will not be arrested or even questioned by police. Unless, that is, they mix it with tobacco. The Dutch prefer to blend their marijuana with tobacco for a smoother smoke. And now that is illegal.
We're confused too.
As supporters of tobacco bans in areas where the smoke can endanger the health or comfort of the public, we're glad to see the Netherlands take steps to protect its citizens, but we can't help wondering about its selective take on which forms of smoke can harm others and which can't. Maybe officials figure that the Dutch version of secondhand smoke confers a tangible benefit on nonsmokers nearby. At least those who inhale it are probably so relaxed that they're in no mood to complain.