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French Smokers Face Regulation

Posted December. 26, 2007 04:14,   


The areas where smokers can light up and puff are getting smaller. Europe has been a so-called ‘paradise of smokers’ since Christopher Columbus introduced Native American cigarettes to Europe after finding the Americas in 1492. However, it cannot go against the global trend of non-smoking anymore.

Since the beginning of this year, several European nations have introduced anti-smoking measures. In January, Belgium banned smoking in restaurants, cafés, and pubs. Belgium’s anti-smoking measures were followed by Portugal’s in May, England’s in July and Denmark’s in August.

Europe’s anti-smoking measures are dwarfed by those of Queensland, Australia where smokers cannot light up not only in indoor public places, but also in non-residential building entrances, near ventilation openings, and within 10m of a children’s playground. Given Europe’s generous stance toward smoking, however, the recent measures are very notable.

France’s anti-smoking law, weaker than those of neighboring countries, came into effect in February this year. Under the law, smoking is banned in public places, including airports and train stations. It will introduce much stronger anti-smoking measures from the first day of next year while putting a ban on smoking in restaurants, cafés, and pubs.

On Monday, England’s Daily Telegraph reported that French smokers, Europe’s heaviest smokers, are in a panic due to worries over the anti-smoking regulations that will come into effect next year.

The daily also reported that French café owners took to the streets and businessmen warned that the nation would face an economic slump. Moreover, psychologists have also said the French people will have difficulties overcoming the shock of quitting smoking, according to the newspaper.

According to the International Herald Tribune published in Paris, lots of people are against the government’s ban on smoking in cafés and are concerned that the anti-smoking measures may lead to closures of cafés, which are a French cultural symbol and have played a role in social unification.

Cafés in France have been considered to be inseparable from cigarettes. The French people have regarded cafés as places where they can have intense discussions in the haze of cigarette smoke. After the Second World War, existentialist philosophers Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus with cigarettes in their mouths wrote and talked at well-known cafés such as the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magors located on Saint Germain Street. It has been considered as a cultural legacy by French. French still have discussion in cafés.

Veronique Moran (51), who has smoked for 40 years, said, “In France, the café is the place where classes mix. Everyone is there, from students to grandmas. Smokers are more passionate. We’re more sensitive, we think about things and talk about things deeply. We get carried away.”

With resistance getting stronger, the French government stepped back. Shortly after around 10,000 café owners staged a demonstration to express their opposition to the government’s measures to expand non-smoking areas in Paris, French Ecology and Sustainable Development Minister Roselyne Bachelot allowed smoking at café terraces with roofs, which was initially subject to non-smoking regulations.

In Germany, which is called “the nation of beer,” citizens have resisted against the government’s measures to expand non-smoking areas. Three German states, including Niedersachsen, prevented smoking in restaurants and pubs from August this year. An additional 13 states will introduce the same anti-smoking measures from the first day of next year.

Associations of hotels and restaurant owners filed a lawsuit to the constitutional court on December 22. A large-scale demonstration was recently staged in Munich, known for its beer festival Oktoberfest. Demonstrators raised their voices to resist against the government’s regulation to expand non-smoking areas.

With smoking prevented in indoor public places, a restaurant owner in Goslar, Niedersachsen made three holes in the wall through which smokers can hold out their head and hands and smoke.