This past Sunday, the (fantastic) City section of The New York Times delved into the smoking habits of the Russians in Brighton Beach (Urban Tactics: Marlboro Men).
While New York has had a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants for a couple years now, the ban has had a hard time among Russian restaurants in Brighton Beach, perhaps because “As the journalist Alexander Grant wrote in Novoye Russkoye Slovo, the city's main Russian-language daily, in 2003, when the city's antismoking law went into effect, cigarette smoke is to the Russian restaurant as steam is to the steam bath.”
Statistics apparently put the number of Russian-American smokers at 30 percent within New York City, above the city average of 18 percent. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is trying to bring this figure down, but local Russians don’t seem to be budging.
Conditioned by years of half-baked self-improvement campaigns in the Soviet Union, former Soviets’ here still see such efforts on the part of government agencies with cynical eyes. “But encouraging Russians to stop smoking is like weaning Americans off baseball…,” The Times concludes.
(Photo: Brighton Beach Avenue billboard by Angela Jimenez for The New York Times)