France gets ready to stop smoking: ban on its way

2nd October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 2, 2006 (AFP) - French smokers are bracing for a major culture shock in the coming months as the country prepares to follow several of its European neighbours and enact a ban on smoking in public places.

PARIS, Oct 2, 2006 (AFP) - French smokers are bracing for a major culture shock in the coming months as the country prepares to follow several of its European neighbours and enact a ban on smoking in public places.

On Tuesday — after five months of deliberations — a parliamentary committee is expected to recommend a prohibition, and Health Minister Xavier Bertrand has indicated a government decision will be taken later in the month.

"The earliest possible date (for a ban) is the beginning of next year, and it seems to me to be a good one. I think the public mood is ready," Bertrand said last week.

"Everyone — even professionals in the restaurant trade, even tobacconists — everyone has come to understand that it is an inevitability," he said.

Details of the ban remain to be decided. It is not clear if it will be in the form of a law or a government decree, and some public places — including bars, discotheques and casinos — could be granted a "period of adaptation", Bertrand said.

The ban is a result of growing acceptance of the reality of passive smoking. According to French government figures, 5,000 people die of passive smoking every year — in the home as well as in public spaces — in addition to 66,000 active smokers.

The failure of France's existing anti-smoking legislation has also been a factor. Enacted in 1991, the so-called Evin law was ahead of its time in that it made obligatory the creation of non-smoking and smoking areas in bars and other public places.

But while most offices and public transport are now smoke-free, the law has never been properly enforced in bars and restaurants — where the post-prandial light-up is widely seen as an inalienable right.

"The status quo is no longer possible. We have to bring to an end this forced cohabitation between smokers and non-smokers," Bertrand told the parliamentary committee.

Ireland was the first European country to ban smoking in public places in March 2004, and it was followed by Norway, Italy, Malta, Sweden and Scotland. England seems set to follow suit next year.

According to an international study last week, France's public spaces are among the smokiest in the world — with 42 percent containing air quality that ranked as "dangerous".

After long opposition, the bar and restaurant trade is largely reconciled to a ban — especially in view of the growing risk of legal action against proprietors over passive smoking.

Instead businesses are pushing for financial aid to offset a predicted loss of income once the prohibition is in force. Tobaccanists — who often also run bars — are especially concerned as their sales have already fallen by 32 percent in two years thanks to the steep rise in cigarette prices.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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