Businesses start to balk at possible smoking ban

24th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - French tobacconists and restaurant owners on Wednesday were reluctant to accept a planned ban on smoking in public areas, but recognised the need to avoid claims by workers over passive smoking.

PARIS, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - French tobacconists and restaurant owners on Wednesday were reluctant to accept a planned ban on smoking in public areas, but recognised the need to avoid claims by workers over passive smoking.

France is preparing to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public areas starting next year, a newspaper reported earlier, citing the health minister Xavier Bertrand.

The ban, which could be applied nationally from January 1, 2007, would bring France into step with several other European countries that have agreed to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces.

"That's going to happen" for France, too, Bertrand was quoted as saying in the daily Le Figaro.

But some in the tobacco and bar industries speaking to AFP called for exemptions for certain types of bar and suggested compromise measures.

"The problem is no longer whether to ban or not to ban," Didier Chenet, president of the Synhorcat national hospitality sector union, told AFP.

Instead, he said, employers in the sector must avoid falling foul of a 2005 ruling obliging employers to protect their employees from second-hand smoke in their establishments.

The head of France's tobacco producers' federation René le Pape said that air-purifiers would be an "effective solution" for protecting workers in smoky bars.

The UMIH association representing the hospitality industry meanwhile said bars could install smoking rooms in which staff were not required to serve.

"It is up to the restaurant owner to decide if his establishment will be smoking or not, to advertise it and to adapt according to his customers," said UMIH head Andre Daguin.

The ban, which could be applied nationally from January 1, 2007, would bring France into step with Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden, which have all imposed or are preparing to impose bans on smoking in enclosed public spaces.

The newspaper said the government was planning a decree announcing the new law, but would make exceptions for bars that sell cigarettes, casinos and nightclubs.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's office stressed that "nothing is yet definitively decided," the daily reported, but said "the timetable is known", pointing to a parliamentary report on the issue due to be submitted next month.

News of the possible ban came after a study published Saturday by Britain's scientific review the Lancet which said that smoking triples the risk of heart attacks and all sorts of smoking — including passive smoking — was bad for the heart.

France has long shed its image of a country of smoky bars and cafes, though tobacco addiction is still a big problem despite successive government price rises that have made packets of cigarettes among the most expensive in Europe.

Smoking kills 61,000 people a year in the country and another 5,000 die of second-hand smoke, according to the health minister.

French cigarette consumption unexpectedly rose this year after four years of decline.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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