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Americans can get very excited about the issue of smoking. Smoking was highly acceptable a few decades ago, but now smokers are in a dwindling minority. Many states and localities have laws limiting the public areas in which people may smoke, or mandating non-smoking areas in restaurants. Cigarette advertising has been banned from radio and television for many years, and now no longer appears on billboards. Many trains and airlines do not allow smoking at all.

If you do smoke and are not sure whether it is legal or polite to smoke in a public or private area, it is common American practice to politely ask “Is smoking allowed?” or “Do you mind if I smoke?” Do not reach for your cigarettes while you are asking these questions. To be on the safe side, assume that it is not all right.

If you smoke, be aware that you are a member of a minority that is getting smaller every day. Americans who give up smoking are often the loudest critics of the habit and the least tolerant. Successful businesses have sprung up to help people quit smoking, with many public service and health groups joining in on a non-profit basis. If you’ve ever thought of quitting, America is a good place in which to do it. You’ll find a great deal of sympathy and help.

At dinner with others, it is not polite to smoke between courses. The proper time to smoke, if the practice is accepted at all, is during coffee and dessert.

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