Coming to Armenia

Today is my first day in Armenia and I have already been exposed to a lot of second hand smoke everywhere. My uncle smoked inside the car on our way to the village from the airport, and everybody was smoking inside the house at my grandparents’ home. The weather was extremely cold in the village and having all doors and windows closed trapped the cigarette smoke from 4-5 men smoking inside the living room. The smoke didn’t seem to bother anyone else but me, and I eventually had to go outside to get some fresh air.  I didn’t dare say anything about the smoke bothering me either because I am the new comer from America doing a project on tobacco and didn’t want to come across as the “police” trying to regulate everyone.
Mets Mantash village where my family lives


Smoking is pretty much everywhere in Armenia. Taxi drivers smoke even though I heard there was a policy against it. Police officers sitting at their desk smoke as they talk to us and tell my younger cousin about the harmful health effects of smoking. People smoke inside, outside, and at everyone’s homes. My cousin is a nonsmoker and he is perfectly okay with letting people smoke inside his house. People know that smoking is bad, and it is printed in large letters “Smoking is bad for your health” on every cigarette pack; however, it does not seem to affect anybody.  I later learned from my research subjects that they did not feel the writing did anything to deter people from smoking and more graphic images that actually show the harmful effects of smoking may be more effective.
Nonsmokers do not at all seem to be bothered by the secondhand smoke.  My uncle simply says that that he appreciates our concern for his health but he just wants to smoke his cigarettes and that’s the end of it. A problem I see is that I don’t think there is widespread knowledge and understanding that secondhand smoke is equally as harmful as smoking itself. 

First days in Yerevan…

After spending two days in the village, I moved to Yerevan and feel excited about meeting my research mentors and starting my project.
American University of Armenia

I was very warmly welcomed at AUA, which is a beautiful campus located on Marshal Bagramyan street in Yerevan.  Dr. Movsisyan has provided me with workspace in their office and I am very excited about the next coming weeks. I have spent the past few days finalizing Armenian translations of my focus group discussion guide, consent form, and telephone script. Typing in Armenian has been a challenge and I am very slow at it. However, I am definitely learning new words in Armenian during the process of translating and typing.

After work I decided to explore Yerevan before going home and ended up getting a manicure.  The nail salon was decent looking, but there was no air conditioning and people were sitting around and smoking in the waiting area. I was taken into a separate room for nails, and even the room smelled of a combination of cigarette smoke and nail polish.  I had to ask them to open the window as it was impossible to breath.  I managed to convince the woman doing my nails that I am a local (after accidentally using an English word) to avoid being charged the tourist rates.  As I was choosing a color, the woman lit a cigarette right in front of me. I guess I should no longer be surprised.  She asked me about my work and to keep things simple, I told her that I work in tobacco control. She immediately became defensive and told me that she smokes because she wants to and that it is her personal decision. I told her that I completely agree, the only problem is that it is bad not only for her health, but the health of others around. She told me that her health is her own business and refused to accept that by smoking next to me, she was also harming my own health.
By the way the manicure cost me 2000 AMD, which is less than $5.00!


At my desk