Posts Tagged ‘Bergen’

Nicotine a hot commodity in Norway

June 25, 2008

I’ve already related my astonishment (yes, even when forewarned) about $12 to $15 beers and $15 to $20 glasses of house wine in Norway, thanks to the dwindling dollar and those oil-rich Norwegians. (I spoke with one German couple whose beer cost a whopping 12 Euro, or about $18, at a cafe in the tourist district in Bergen.)

Rack of plastic cards for tobacco products in supermarket. Click to ENLARGE

Rack of plastic cards for tobacco products in supermarket. Click to ENLARGE

So it’s a good thing we don’t imbibe in tobacco as well, as packs of cigarettes in Norway cost about 76 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) or $15. I was fascinated by the way they were sold at the ICA supermarket and I assume elsewhere. At each checkout counter was a rack of plastic cards, kind of like gift cards, with tobacco brands and bar codes printed on them. You take your card/pack of choice, have it scanned by the cashier and then pop it into a nearby vending machine that resembles an ice machine and out comes your cigs.

I’d like to say that the high price of cigarettes has helped cut down on smoking, and perhaps it has overall, but, as I mentioned earlier, I was very surprised by the number of young people smoking, especially the gals. Many of the guys, meanwhile, have turned to “snus” or snuff, the nicotine powder product kept in one’s mouth for a time-released charge. Snuff use has been called an epidemic among male teens, according to a 2007 article in the country’s leading paper, the Aftenposten. I saw older men use it as well, including a businessman I sat next to on a plane. I don’t know the cost of snuff, but I’m sure it’s high.

I should mention here that the smoking stats for the US and Norway are about the same — an estimated 21-22 percent of adults smoke. Wessel says we notice it more in Norway because more people in general, including smokers, are outside — at cafes, using public transportation, etc. I think he makes a good point.

warning labels on cigarette packages

Warning labels on cigarette packages

Norway was one of the first countries to ban smoking in buildings, and, like many European countries, they have GIANT warning labels on the packages, so it’s not like they’re not trying. I hope they also consider banning smoking near doorways, as we had to rush through clouds of smoke before entering many restaurants, large stores, and office buildings.

As Americans used to say before half of us quit smoking, there’s nothing more annoying than a reformed smoker! Now they’re so many of us, we don’t stand out. (That would be me. Wessel has never smoked. Anything!)


All cycling paths lead to Lofoten

June 19, 2008

We met two Canadian touring cyclists at the amazingly beautiful and filled-with-info tourist information center in Bergen. (Much bigger and better than Oslo’s, suprisingly.) Like all Canadians do, it seems, they were sporting a maple-leaf flag.

Barb and Janne“Are you really Canadian or Americans posing as Canadians?” I asked Janne. “I’m really Canadian, eh,” he answered in that unmistakable accent. Janne’s family is Finnish and he has dual citizenship. He and his girlfriend, Barb, who live in Calgary, are on a five-week holiday, cycling in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Like us, they’re headed for Lofoten, so perhaps we’ll see them there. They’re taking three night trains to get there, while we, on a much-shorter holiday, are flying. (By the time you read this time-released blog entry, we should be on Lofoten, without email, freezing and enjoying the amazing beauty that the chain of islands above the Arctic Circle has to offer under the light of the Midnight Sun. That was a long sentence, wasn’t it?)

Interestingly, Janne told me, they couldn’t put their bikes on trains or buses in Sweden and had to box them up like freight and “ship” them on the same train they were on. For such a forward-thinking country, that is pathetic.

Lancome pink bikeIn other cycling news, we spied a pink Lancôme bike in Bergen. Funny, I thought the French cosmetics company made only makeup. Must have been for a promotion. If they gave away pink bikes instead of little “makeup gift bags” with a $50 purchase, I’d be first in line to buy a tube of overpriced lipstick. I’d love to post a photo of the bike on a website I found featuring only pink bicycles, but now I can’t locate it. Perhaps a loyal reader can. My friend Alice is good at that. Al, you there?