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French Smoking Ban Up In Smoke 2006-04-16

Posted by clype in Europe, Health, Intolerance.

Relieved French tobacco smokers can muse that every cloud has a silver lining as they enjoy a cigarette at the bar with their morning coffee. The government, weakened by a battle with unions and students over a controversial youth jobs contract, backed away from a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants this week to avoid a confrontation with France’s many smokers and tobacconists. The image of Parisian cafes filled with smoke from pungent ‘Gauloise’ cigarettes has changed since Socialists forced hostelries to clean up their act in the 1990s, but the idea of a total ban in public places is still a source of controversy. ‘Sell Out!’ fumed anti-smoking campaigners who accused the government of sacrificing the health of millions. But smokers, taxed to their filter tips in recent years, quietly puffed their approval after what they saw as a surprise last-minute reprieve.

‘I love my daily coffee and cigarette,’ said Ms.Louisa Bunz, 47, as she smoked in a central Paris bar.

The idea of making restaurants tobacco-free and forcing smokers into hermetic, ventilated phone box-style cabins without drinks and food was ridiculous, she said.

‘It would be like a little smokers’ prison cell,’ she said.


The government said on 2006-04-12 Wednesday it was delaying legislation to ban smoking in public places, and called for months of consultations. Two days earlier it had abandoned plans for a new jobs contract to make it easier to hire and fire young people. Anti-smoking campaigners say tobacco is responsible for some 60_000 deaths/year in France, where about a quarter of the population smoke. Surveys show a large majority of French people would like smoke-free restaurants. Since 1992, bars and restaurants are supposed to have up clearly defined non-smoking areas. In practice the areas are often hard to spot.

‘How many articles and reports does it take before a self-evident decision is taken?’ said Mr.Gerard Dubois, a health professor in the city of Amiens.

‘2006-04-12 will mark the first day of a new public health scandal: The “contaminated air scandal”.’

The authorities have vowed to cut smoking in public places, in part to attract health-conscious tourists. Smoking bans already exist in Ireland, Italy and Spain. Many people were surprised by the government’s climbdown, saying they had not expected it to cause widespread unrest.

‘People are too lazy to take to the streets over smoking,’ Mr.Arezki Messad said, enjoying a cigarette in a Paris café.

But bar and tobacco shop manager Mr.Madjid Mezizenne said the smoking ban could have hurt business.

‘It would be bad for us, bad for sales. ‘People are already smoking less and sales will fall further,’ he said.

The MIH restaurateurs’ union expressed concern over the effects of an all-out ban, but economists discounted suggestions it would hurt the service sector.



1. Santina - 2007-01-07

People are being led to believe that if they don’t smoke they won’t die.

2. gregorytx - 2007-04-21

Freedom is not just the freedom to do the smart or healthy thing. That kind of freedom is no freedom at all.

Let business owners decide and post their policy, so that potential employees or customers have the freedom to choose whether to patronize the establishment.

Is this solution too simple for the ANTI-SMOKER brigade?

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