“Smoke-free” doesn’t mean “smoke freely”, and Russia gets a smoking ban

In the news recently there have been some interesting things about tobacco smoking. We’ve also had some questions about smoking in our English forum, so in this post I’ll be taking a look at some smoking-related words.

Russian ban on smoking

A BBC article last week announced that Russia is to ban smoking in public places. Over the next year or so it will become illegal to smoke in public buildings (or even outside the entrances), on public transport, and in restaurants.

The Russian ban surprised me a great deal. Although several EU countries have already introduced restrictions on smoking, I didn’t expect Russia to follow their example so soon. Some countries from the former Eastern Bloc (the Czech Republic and Poland, for instance) seem hesitant to outlaw smoking. Tobacco companies are very wealthy and influential: could it be that their lobbyists are swaying governments’ decisions away from banning smoking?

You can read the BBC article about the Russian smoking ban here.
For listening practice there’s also an excellent podcast – ‘Russia’s new smoking ban’.


‘Smoke-free’ doesn’t mean ‘smoke freely’

Mamoru Tanahara, a member of our Learn English Community on Google+, recently discussed the meaning of ‘smoke-free’.

Mamoru says that the inclusion of the word free confuses him into thinking that ‘smoke-free’ means ‘smoking is allowed’. No, it doesn’t mean that. Smoke is derived from a noun here so the adjective smoke-free actually means ‘free of smoke’ – that is, ‘no smoke’. (Just think of tax-free shopping, which means ‘free of tax’, i.e. there’s no tax to pay.) 

Smoke freely, on the other hand, would mean ‘smoke as you wish, where you wish’. Here is Mamoru’s post.

Smoking-related vocabulary

Here is some of the vocabulary you can learn from reading the BBC article and listening to the podcast:

  • fags: slang word for cigarettes (British English)
  • a heavy smoker: someone who smokes a lot
  • smoke-free: free of smoke; a smoke-free bar, a smoke-free campus
  • a craving: an uncontrollable need to do something (e.g. to smoke)
  • a smoking ban  / a ban on smoking: a law that does not allow smoking
  • to light up:  to light and smoke a cigarette
  • to smoke like a chimney: to smoke a lot
  • to stub out a cigarette: extinguish a cigarette by pushing the remaining part on to a hard surface, such as an ash tray
  • to be addicted to smoking: unable to stop smoking even though you want to
  • passive smoking: breathing in the smoke of other people
  • to go up in smoke: (an idiom) to be unsuccessful, to fail.

What are your views on smoking –  do you think it should be banned in public places?
Perhaps you’re from Russia. If so, what is the reaction to the ban there? Please leave a comment below.

Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.


  1. Mamoru Tanahara - March 7, 2013, 4:39 pm Reply

    Thank you for the detailed comment on the word ‘free’. Thanks to this article, I won’t be confused by the phrase ‘something-free”.

    When it comes to smoking, it’s been proven that smoking affects not only smokers themselves but also people around them. That’s why I think smoking ban is unavoidable trend all over the world. However, I admit that I had been smoking for more than a decade, and I know how difficult quitting smoking is. So I think it has a long way to go before the smoke-free world comes true.

  2. Faiz - March 28, 2013, 11:50 pm Reply

    it exists in India, the rule I mean but nobody gives a damn about it and its pretty rampant. I do support it although i smoke 20 fags a day.

  3. airo - March 29, 2013, 5:55 am Reply

    i don’t agree with you because this is a humane way to reduce people population. if somebody is so stupid to smoke so he does a big favore to all planet. 7 billion people for such a small planet are too much. IMHO.

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