Paris rolls out plan for stopping smoking in public

9th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 8, 2006 (AFP) - Smoking will be illegal in French cafes, bars and restaurants from January 2008 under a ban announced Sunday by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

PARIS, Oct 8, 2006 (AFP) - Smoking will be illegal in French cafes, bars and restaurants from January 2008 under a ban announced Sunday by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Unveiling a general prohibition on smoking in public areas from next February, the prime minister told RTL radio that a reprieve of 11 months will be permitted to establishments that "traditionally welcome smokers."

"It will be on January 1 2008 that in bars, restaurants and discotheques the measure will come into effect," he said.

Smoking will only be permitted in establishments that build hermetically-sealed 'fumoirs', or smoking-rooms, to which serving staff will not be permitted access, he said.

The Union of Hospitality Trades (UMIH) has said that fewer than three percent of restaurants and bars can afford the investment.

The move follows similar bans introduced in Ireland, Italy and Scotland triggered by changing public attitudes to smoking and growing acceptance of the risks of passive smoking.

According to Villepin, some 5,000 French people die every year from breathing other people's fumes. "This is a totally unacceptable situation in terms of public health," he said.

The ban will be in the form a government decree to be issued next month, and will initially effect schools, businesses and shops.

Individuals who break the prohibition will be made to pay EUR 75, a fine which rises to EUR 150 for those responsible for establishments where it is not applied.

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

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 last week of a parliamentary committee, which noted that some 70 percent of the public supports an effective ban on public smoking.

Many bar- and restaurant-owners reacted angrily to the proposal, saying they face major financial losses.

"You have no idea how many customers I have here from Britain and the US who say to me how glad they are that at least one country hasn't succumbed to political correctness," said Laurent Lefevre, owner of Au Metro bar in the 14th district of Paris.

"In a few months from now all my customers are going to be standing out on the street, which means in winter they won't come. What's going to be banned next? Sex?"

"Protecting the public is a laudable aim," said Alain Dutournier, chef at the Michelin-starred Carré des Feuillants restaurant in Paris. "But smoking a cigarette or cigar after a meal is a comfort and pleasure which is part of the art of living."

But others said that society had moved on. The Groupe Flo chain of popular eateries recently banned smoking in some establishments and says there has been no effect on business.

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.

Villepin said that in northern Italy the number of under 60-year-olds suffering from cardiovascular illnesses fell by 10 percent in the five months following last year's smoking ban.

"We expect a very rapid improvement in public health," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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