Question: I am considering a week-long visit to Havana in mid-December, mainly for the annual Latin jazz festival. My major concern is the air quality, both outdoors and indoors. I have asthma and am especially sensitive to tobacco smoke. Can you tell me how likely I am to be exposed to smoke in the various places I am likely to be? Namely, auditoriums, public transport, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, museums, etc. I know an anti-smoking law was passed in 2005, but do not know the details or how strictly it is enforced. Thank you.
Answer: The air quality in the capital has gotten a little better since many of the older urban buses were put to rest and some newer cars are on the road. However the many old 1950s US cars used as collective taxis have diesel motors and are polluters.
The smoking ban in public places is not well enforced, especially in establishments meant for Cuban clientele. The same goes for Cuban workplaces/offices where smoking is still common.
Some of the fancier tourist hotels have no-smoking areas in their lobbies and cafe/bars but enforcement is not very strict. Foreign visitors are the main violators in these upscale places taking advantage of what they can’t do at home.
Night clubs generally allow smoking which can be thick due to the closed environment.
Theaters and museums do not allow smoking and there it is strictly enforced.
Outdoor cafes routinely allow smoking.
Several of the main Jazz Plaza venues are in the no-smoking theaters. However, the side venues are clubs where smoking is allowed.
The airport lounge for those waiting to board a plane has an enclosed smoking room. The rest is smoke free. Coming in to Havana people smoke freely in that part of the airport.
In general, if a tourist wants to smoke anywhere they can…. and a Cuban can smoke anywhere unless a tourist complains loudly in a ritzier joint.