Smoking is more common in Austria than you might expect, with just under a quarter of adults smoking daily last time I checked the statistics. This leads to exasperated headshaking among doctors, and shrugs (and a wave of a cigarette, presumably) from too many others.
- Smoking is banned in all the usual places, such as public transport
- This smoking ban includes pubs, bars, restaurants, etc.
- See also: Drinking rules in Vienna
The smoking 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. Just 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 conventional places, namely schools, offices, airports, museums, hospitals, shopping malls, stores, fitness centres, theatres, cinemas, petrol stations, etc., with some rare exceptions (like dedicated smoking rooms in a workplace).
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 and in the entire country’s railway stations.
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 used to be a bit of a controversial topic in Austria. The current status is that smoking is not permitted at all inside.
Until 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.
So the situation at the moment is a blanket ban and the current elected coalition shows no sign of wanting to change anything.
This ban also includes shishas and e-cigarettes, though shisha bars are, I believe, attempting to get a legal exception for their locations.
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.
If you wish to smoke while eating or drinking indoors, you can’t. You’ll need to nip outside for a cigarette. Many locations may already have an outdoor area (especially in warmer months) and others have installed outside heaters and chairs (where planning laws allow) for cold-weather smokers.
The legal age for smoking is effectively 18 in Vienna at the time of writing. Each province in Austria has its own regulations, but essentially in Vienna it’s illegal to give, sell or otherwise pass on tobacco-related products to anyone under the age of 18. And it’s illegal for those under 18 to purchase, have or consume tobacco-related products in public. Which is where the “effectively 18” comes from.
If you want to know the precise ins and outs of the law around this, there’s a page in German here (which also lets you know what tobacco and related products the law includes in the under-18 ban).
Cigarettes are more or less only available from tobacconists. Vienna has cigarette vending machines, but some (all?) may require a Bankomatkarte (bank debit card) to operate them. I’m not sure if non-Austrian bank cards work (but haven’t tried to be honest, being a non-smoker).