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 on November 1st, 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 forms of public transport (such as taxis). It is banned in all subway and railway stations in Vienna. The general smoking ban for Vienna’s railway stations entered force in November, 2019 and will spread to the entire country’s rail stations in 2020.
It is also illegal to smoke in a private vehicle 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 very recently, 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, Austria’s current government of experts (pending coalition negotiations following the election held at the end of September 2019) resurrected the smoking ban and it became illegal to smoke inside pubs, restaurants, etc. from November 1st, 2019. This includes shishas and e-cigarettes, though shisha bars are currently 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. Since this is a very recent law, it may take a few weeks for everyone to get used to it. However, the authorities in Vienna have indicated they will be policing the new rules quite intensively, with no honeymoon period.
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 they 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).