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Paris Up in Smoke

I’m sure you’ve already heard that as of February 1, 2007, all of France will ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places (stations, museums, government offices and shops), but not in the streets or private places such as houses or hotel rooms.

Shocking news, isn’t it (?), that the incessantly puffing French would actually go so far as outlaw one of their seemingly favorite activities. There are exceptions, however, for bars, often those that sell cigarettes (Tabacs), casinos and nightclubs to get with the program by January 1, 2008.

There is a restaurant on avenue de la Motte-Piquet called “Le Gauloise” and another just down the street named “La Gitane.” While we might think their names refer to the “Gallic” and the “Gypsy,” they immediately elicit images of unfiltered strong, smelly, smoky French cigarettes hanging from the lips of World War II resistance fighters.

The first French women I ever met, when in my teens volunteering on a Kibbutz in the Jordan Valley, had stacks of the blue packages in stock to keep them smoking the taste the had grown to love, as powerful as it was. I was smoking three packs a day myself then…Marlboro Lights.

Smoking Gauloises was promoted at one time as a contribution to the national good! A portion of the profits from their sales contributed to the Regie Français Tabacs, a semi-governmental corporation charged with both controlling the use of tobacco, especially by minors, and directing its profits towards socially beneficial causes. The Gauloise pack is blue by design — a peculiarly French shade of blue to identify immediately with the French culture.

Reports show that smoking kills 61,000 people a year in France and another 5,000 die of second-hand smoke, according to the health minister, yet strangely enough, cigarette smoking rose this year by 2.9% (28 million more cigarettes smoked!) after four years of decline.

Restaurant and café owners are naturally afraid the ban will affect business, but I’ll bet it will help, not hurt. When New York went smoke free, they discovered an increase. As smoking becomes more difficult, so will the peer pressure increase to just plain quit. We say it happen in the States, and we will likely see it happen here.

Thank goodness! I am looking forward to the day that we won’t have to sit as far away as possible from the young women puffing away over their petit cafés in order to breathe and taste my meal or move the astray filled with nasty butts to another table.

You know, we reformed smokers can be the worst of the lot, but “tant pis.” I know better than anyone what it’s like to always carry an extra pack of cigarettes for fear of running out, having dirty ashtrays in every corner of the house, chewing on breath mints to ensure getting kissed and coming down with bronchitis every winter. That all ended in 1981 with one session under hypnosis!

Paris…thumbs up to you rather than smoke.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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