France makes ban on public smoking official

16th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) - The French government on Thursday published a decree banning smoking in public places from February but giving bars, restaurants and nightclubs a reprieve till January 2008.

PARIS, Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) - The French government on Thursday published a decree banning smoking in public places from February but giving bars, restaurants and nightclubs a reprieve till January 2008.

The ban, following similar measures in other European countries including Ireland, Scotland and Italy, will apply to "all closed and covered places that are open to the public or are places of work."

It is especially draconian in schools and colleges where the ban will also cover playgrounds, gardens and other exterior spaces.

There will be no smoking rooms in public buildings including hospitals, Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said on Wednesday, as the state "can and will set an example."

But there would be a certain "pragmatism", the minister added, so that smoking would be allowed on open platforms in train stations for example, as well rooms in retirement homes, prisons and hotels.

"In places which substitute as domiciles, there is no change in the law," he said.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced last month that France would join the other European Union countries that have already imposed smoking bans in indoor public areas, sparking an outcry from tobacconists across France who staged several small protests on Monday.

Stating that some 5,000 French people die every year from passive smoking, Villepin said, "This is a totally unacceptable situation in terms of public health. We have therefore decided from February 1 to ban smoking in public places."

However, "for establishments which traditionally welcome smokers, we foresee a supplementary period of adaptation ... so it will be on January 1 2008 that in bars, restaurants and discotheques the measure will come into effect," he said on RTL radio.

Establishments which wish to permit smoking will have to build hermetically-sealed "fumoirs", or smoking-rooms, to which serving staff will not be permitted access, he said.

Individuals who break the law will be made to pay EUR 68, a fine which rises to EUR 135 for those responsible for establishments where it is not applied.

"A major enforcement effort will be mobilised," the prime minister said.

Tobacconists said extending the ban to bars and other socialising areas would prove damaging to not just their livelihoods but also those of waiters and owners of the establishments.

Representatives of the hospitality trade say they will be hit hard by the ban, and that fewer than three percent of bars and restaurants have the wherewithal to instal "fumoirs".

Dating from 1991, France's existing anti-tobacco legislation makes it obligatory to set up separate smoking areas in public places, but it has never been properly enforced in cafes and restaurants.

Villepin's announcement followed the recommendation of a parliamentary committee, which noted that some 70 percent of the public supports an effective ban on public smoking.

The government has promised financial help to tobacconists — many of them also bar and cafe owners — who are already suffering from a downturn in sales caused by a 40 percent cigarette price hike in the last three years.

According to government figures some 30 percent of adults use tobacco, and 66,000 die of illnesses caused by smoking every year. President Jacques Chirac made the fight against cancer one of three "priorities" of his second term, which ends in May.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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