Smoking is surprisingly common in Austria with just under a quarter of adults smoking daily. This leads to exasperated headshaking among doctors, and to a shrug (and a wave of a cigarette, presumably) from many politicians.
- Smoking is banned in all the places you’d expect, including on public transport
- A smoking ban in pubs, restaurants, etc. entered force in late 2019
- See also: Drinking rules in Vienna
The smoke situation
So does the unusual popularity of smoking mean you can smoke freely in Vienna?
Does it mean you’ll often be exposed to smoke on your trip?
Not at all.
I’m a non-smoker, don’t like smoke, and never encounter any real problems anywhere. But don’t be surprised if someone at the bus stop or sitting outside a coffee house is puffing on a cigarette.
Where do people smoke?
Smoking is generally not allowed in the usual places, namely schools, workplaces, airports, museums, hospitals, shopping malls, stores, inside public buildings, theatres, cinemas, petrol stations, etc., with some rare exceptions (like dedicated smoking rooms in an office complex).
What about public transport?
Smoking is not permitted inside trains, trams, buses and other enclosed forms of public transport (such as taxis and hire cars). It is banned in all subway stations in Vienna. A general smoking ban for Vienna’s railway stations entered force in November, 2019 and will spread to the entire country’s rail stations from April 1st 2020 (where not already implemented).
It’s also illegal to smoke in your own car when any occupant is under the age of 18.
What about bars, restaurants, etc.?
Ah. This is a bit of a controversial topic in Austria. The current status is that smoking is not permitted at all inside.
Until last year (2019), bars and restaurants simply had to provide a separate, non-smoking area for guests. This area also had to be the “main” room and the obligation did not extend to very small locations.
Efforts were made to get a general smoking ban implemented, as in many other countries. The legislation was even in place to do just that. Then a new government came in and decided to rescind the planned law and maintain the status quo.
However, the government of experts that took over when that “pro-smoking” coalition collapsed resurrected the smoking ban and it became illegal to smoke inside pubs, restaurants, etc. from November 1st, 2019. That is the situation at the moment and the current elected coalition shows no sign of wanting to change anything.
This ban includes shishas and e-cigarettes, though shisha bars are attempting to get a legal exception for their locations.
So what does this mean for visitors?
If you wish to eat or drink in a smoke-free environment indoors, you can. All locations should now be completely non-smoking. The authorities in Vienna conducted spot checks in the weeks after the ban came into force and found people smoking in only 1.6% of locations .
If you wish to smoke while eating or drinking indoors, you can’t. You’ll need to nip outside for a cigarette. Many locations are busy installing outside heaters and chairs for that very purpose (where planning laws allow).
The legal age for smoking is effectively 18 in Vienna at the time of writing. If you want to know the precise ins and outs of the law around this, there’s a page in German here.
Cigarettes are only available from tobacconists. There are cigarette vending machines, but some may require a Bankomatkarte (bank card) to operate them. I’m not sure that non-Austrian bank cards work (but haven’t tried to be honest).