France braces for tough smoking ban

30th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 30, 2007 (AFP) - France, home to a lively tobacco-scented cafe culture, this week moves to enforce a ban on smoking in public places that will extend to embrace bars, restaurants and cafes next year.

PARIS, Jan 30, 2007 (AFP) - France, home to a lively tobacco-scented cafe culture, this week moves to enforce a ban on smoking in public places that will extend to embrace bars, restaurants and cafes next year.

As of Thursday, smoking will be outlawed in all workplaces, hospitals, schools and shops, marking the end of the "smokers' corner", as part of the French government's response to a worrying increase in cigarette consumption.

But the real test for the anti-smoking legislation will come in 11 months, when the nation's restaurants, bars and cafes -- long considered havens for lovers of nicotine -- will have to comply.

France joins Belgium, Britain and Italy which have slapped a broad ban on smoking in public places, but there is no European-wide directive on smoke-free environments.

"We are ready for this," Gerard Audureau, president of the association for the defence of non-smokers' rights, told AFP.

Audureau points to the experience of Ireland, which ran into some public resistance to the ban on smoking in pubs but still managed successfully to enforce the change.

Opponents have described the measure as an attack on personal freedom and warn that the cafe business will suffer, deserted by smokers who will no longer be able to blow rings of smoke over their glass of pastis.

"Smokers are feeling persecuted by this law," said Pascal Montredon, secretary general of the Confederation of Tobacconists, representing some 30,000 members. "They are being thrown out on the street."

Montredon praised Spain as an example, saying that legislation there gives cafe owners the choice to offer, or not, a smoke-free environment for their patrons and that many have sought to be accommodating by installing new ventilation systems.

Under the new ban, smokers who light up in a public place can be fined up to 450 euros (580 dollars) while business owners may face penalties of up to 750 euros.

The organisation representing small- and medium-sized businesses said Monday that its members were ready to comply with the new law, but appealed for "tolerance" from the authorities.

Small businesses often have no choice but to slap an all-out ban on smoking because of the lack of space needed to set up a ventilated smoking area, said the General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Businesses.

The grouping "called for tolerance from public authorities to ensure that labour inspectors do not impose fines in a strict and brutal manner," a statement said.

The smoking ban, which expands on previous measures enacted in 1991, was adopted after figures showed that smoking was on the rise in France, with almost half of all 18-to-34 year olds taking up the habit.

About 15 million people smoke in France and tobacco is the leading cause of avoidable death, claiming 66,000 lives per year, according to the health ministry. Passive smoking claims another 5,000 lives per year.

Of particular concern is the increase in smoking among women, which has doubled over the past decades to reach 22 percent, health ministry figures show.

The French government hopes that the ban will encourage smokers to kick the habit and many businesses are offering in-house sessions on how to quit smoking.

Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said the smoking ban should lead to a doubling in the number of French smokers who quit, from the current 700,000 per year to 1.5 million.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article