Saturday, January 19, 2008

Smoke Free Paris

In case you haven't heard by now, on January 2 the ever-rumored no-smoking law was passed in France; and while I am generally in favor of smoking prohibition, I have discovered a few, shall we say "problems" with its Parisian application...


1. Sometimes, especially at night, the sidewalks in front of certain bars are so packed with banished smokers that it's easier to take your chances and walk past in the street...


The weather has been unseasonably mild, so this isn't as uncomfortable as it will be soon enough. This small crowd is nothing to compared to others I've pushed my way through.



2. This fact and increased outdoor smoking in general lead to other obvious problems...












... though at least one bar has created this simple solution...








"Would you please put your butts here."





3. Apparently, police officers are still free to smoke in their patrol cars and paddy wagons. This doesn't seem fair, does it? (I'd love to show you a picture of this, but I have yet to be quick enough, let alone brave enough, to capture it.)

4. Hookah bars all over town have gone out of business. C'mon! Even in California we allow hookah smoking, don't we? And if I want to get political, this fact alone could be seen as an intentional side effect aimed at Arab establishments... but no one seems to be going there over here.

5. Last but not least, the problem I see as saddest is a certain change in lifestyle that this regulation has put into motion. Smoking--more specifically the required lingering associated with it--is at the core of Parisian culture... not that all Parisians smoke, but the ones that do have always set a sort of pace, a counterbalance to the frenzied city life so many Parisians live.

As you can imagine, this has been a hot topic on the news and in cafes and bars. Some establishments are already reporting reduced profits, and interviews show smoker after smoker talking about how their coffee breaks (pause cafe) and their famous conversations have become much shorter, even less frequent.

In the long run, people will adapt. Most are glad to have smoke free meals, and most of the smokers I've ever known even like the excuse to excuse themselves from social situations at certain intervals. I'm curious to see what the regulation does to cigarette sales. The line at our neighborhood tabac doesn't seem any shorter, but you know... change takes time.

At any rate, here's hoping the weather stays agreeable.

2 comments:

Diana said...

A smoke-free Paris? The mind fairly boggles...

Suzanne said...

Got an email from my friend Christine this week...

How astute of you to notice a 'change in lifestyle' of the Parisians since the smoking law was enacted. The practice of 'required lingering' and the 'counter-balance to a frenzied life' harkens to the late 19th century when the 'cafe concerts' were the place of entertainments, discussion, and venting for the working class, specifically in the 1860s and 70s (and into the 80s) before and after the Paris Commune. These public venues served as places for the working class to congregate and for many a place to discuss the next move to attain civil rights and economic opportunities. Although I too gagged on the thick smoke of a cafe in Paris in 2003, it seems it is an established social right that is now being negated. It would be remarkably sad and paradoxical if this one act, aimed at creating a healthier environment for people, ultimately causes people to begin living in earnest the unhealthy frenzied lives we live in the US every day. I wonder which is the more beneficial for human health and happiness.