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Fumer Peut Vous Tuer

What is Paris coming to? A smoke-free city? Is it possible?

When FPI’s Property Manager, Yolanda Robins, and I were walking down rue Quincampoix in the 4th (having just come from an impromptu “welcome to your ‘new’ 17th-century ‘hôtel particulier’ luxurious apartment” that past conference participant, Dan Maddux, recently bought and is moving into this week), I was shocked by what a passer-by called out to her.

She was nonchalantly smoking a cigarette to which I was paying no attention. Without blinking an eye, the gentleman swished by us and exclaimed: “Fumer peut vous tuer!”

“Smoking can kill you,” he said! I was stunned. There is no question that the “habit” of non-smoking is catching on in France like wildfire.

Last October 26th, 2004, the City of Paris and the SYNHORCAT (National Union of Hotels, Restaurants, Cafés and Caterers), joined forces to set up the “Ici, c’est 100% sans tabac” label (“This is a totally tobacco-free area.”) for cafés, hotels and restaurants who declare themselves to be smoke-free. The goal is to promote the improvement of our quality of air and our quality of life. The city is awarding the label following an on-site visit to verify compliance with its requirements.

Last month I read an article in the U.K.’s “Guardian” that with all that effort, they had only convinced about 30 establishments out of 12,452 cafes, bistros and brasseries to take the plunge. Head of the catering industry union (UMIH), told “Le Parisien” that it was “doomed to failure” — “How can you ask customers to stop smoking when 43% of establishments in Paris also sell cigarettes?”

Recently, Rome banned smoking in public, believe it or not! And Ireland successfully introduced similar legislation as much as a year ago. The U.S. banned smoking long before Europe would have even considered it for a second. I recall the early 80’s, when non-smoking campaigns hit the U.S. — that’s when I quit smoking three packs a day for good!

According to The Guardian, the French are still a nation of smokers and quoted the latest government figures: 32.2% of all 26- to 75-year-olds are regular smokers and the figure rises to 36.7% in the 12 to 25 age group. Proprietors argue that banning smoking would amount to commercial suicide, but some aren’t afraid.

Omar of Chez Omar, one of my regular haunts on rue de Bretagne, is very proud of his non-smoking area and posts a sign reading “Bienvenue au Club des Non-Fumeurs.” It’s the back portion of the restaurant, semi-divided by a glass and wood partition, leaving the smokers for the better-ventilated front portion. What a pleasure to smell the couscous and not someone’s smelly Gauloises!

Recently, at Karel Beer’s Laughing Matters Comedy Club held at the “Hôtel du Nord,” at the mic he openly asked the gentleman in the front row to distinguish his cigar, which was clouding the room with a burning stench. That didn’t stop the other huge percentage of cigarette smokers in the club from puffing away and non-smokers were suffocating from the foul air — one reason clean-lunged people such as myself avoid the clubs and bars.

So, would it really be suicidal to ban smoking in most of these establishments? Perhaps over time, a new clientele would be attracted and smoking in France would be reduced, just as it has in other countries and cities which have taken the tough road to clean air.

For all you non-smokers suffering in Paris, here’s a list of sites where you will find a list of non-smoking restaurants:

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. My own restaurant guide, “Insider Paris Guide for Good Value Restaurants,” has not yet made the distinction for each listing, but I expect that’s next on the agenda. Meanwhile, the guide can still guarantee you great meals for under 30 euros at more than 200 lesser-known Paris bistrots. The Winter-Spring 2005 edition is now available at


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