Yes I know I should give up smoking, but I’m a complete nicotine junkey, however I wouldn’t say that I am a heavy smoker. I can keep my « filthy addiction » down to about six or seven cigarettes a day. As a smoker I know too that I have become a pariah and for non-smokers I am permanently « impregnated » with the stink of cigarettes.
Anyway, in France we’ve had one of those very fashionable and politically correct smoking bans in place since 2007 – no smoking in public places, including bars, cafés and restaurants, precisely all the places that us smokers used to love lighting up in. I will be the first to admit though, that it is actually now quite pleasant to be able to eat in a restaurant without someone blowing smoke at you. However I do miss lighting up in a bar. This being France though, there are still bars that flout the law, mostly bars in small, far-flung villages, where the « strong arm of the law » never quite reaches. I’m not saying that this is a lawless country, but our local Gendarmes have got better things to do, than go chasing law-breaking smokers.
I see today, that the government are preparing a whole new battery of anti-smoking laws. First off (and obviously), there will be a massive hike in the price of a packet of cigarettes – around 10%
Secondly, there will be even less places to smoke – primarily the pavement terraces of bars and cafés. Does this mean you won’t be able to smoke outside? Well, no. Those punters who enjoy a cigarette with their favourite tipple will still be able to get a nicotine fix, as long as the café terrace is completely in the open air.
This was how a lot of cafés got round the anti-smoking law – they increased the size of their pavement terraces and then covered them all in, and just so the smokers wouldn’t freeze to death, owners of bars and cafés installed powerful heaters. In many Parisian bars, the outside pavement terrace is now completely covered in, and in many cases, the terrace is actually bigger than the inside of the café itself.
This certainly isn’t like Britain, where you feel guilty for lighting up in a bus shelter and it is a world away from New York, where (so I am told) it is even illegal to smoke in the street.
So, bars, cafés and restaurants will now be obliged to uncover their terraces, and once again smokers will be obliged to puff away in the cold. I guess that pneumonia is going to get us long before cancer does
Well, it is a sign of these hard economic times we live in. Bashing visible minorities is a good way of averting attention from the real issues. This is like school reform or same sex marriage – yet another cheap and popular smokescreen policy.
For further reading on the smoking ban, click on the links below. A couple of pieces I wrote for English newspapers on how the smoking ban is actually affecting the owners of bars and cafés. Happy reading.