Smoking? The French take no prisoners

Written by admin on August 25, 2009 – 4:57 pm -

Sacre bleu! No one thought it could ever be done but they were wrong. The French government passed a no-smoking law that took effect in early 2007, which banned smoking in public spaces. Now it has spread to restaurants, bars and hotels.

Today, groups of people now huddle together outside of office buildings, looking like refuges, sharing a lighter and puffing away. A definite sense of ‘us against them’ solidarity has developed.

Offices are no longer allowed to have a smoking area for the addicted. Smokers are out fresh out of luck — even in the rain and frigid weather, they are forced to brave the elements come hell or high water.

The French restaurant lobby fought mightily and the ban wasn’t enforced in cafés and restaurants until January 2008.

Some chefs and restaurateurs opted to go non-smoking earlier, for the sake of their food and attracting a clientele who felt strongly about not having their taste buds deadened by the smell of tobacco.

Well – it’s come or is coming. Many Parisian hotels have decided to ban smoking and no longer even have one or two smoking rooms. Even though large hotels may have some designated smoking rooms, many smaller hotels have gone the non-smoking route and the management is serious. If you’re caught smoking on the premises, they are entitled to fine you.

Soon Paris may be like Boston where smoking inside any hotel room is forbidden.  Katherine Johnstone, Media Relations Manager of the New York Office of ATOUT FRANCE (the France Tourism Development Agency), says that’s definitely the trend and projects all hotels will be non-smoking in the very near future.

Not believing this could be possible in a country where so many people still smoke (albeit a diminishing number since cigarettes cost approximately $7.50 a pack) I popped into a number of hotels in Paris and confirmed that smokers are out of luck. If they have a nicotine attack in the middle of the night, if they don’t have a room with a balcony, (and shut the doors to the room) occupants will have to go outside in their pajamas.

Look at the fine print of many hotel registration forms; it’s frequently noted that if you smoke in the room, there will be a substantial fee to have it deep cleaned and you might even be responsible for buying new curtains and more.

In an informal survey, people responded they have zero tolerance or sympathy for smokers and feel they should be fined and made to pay for a complete deep cleaning of the room.  Opening up an Air-Wick bottle or spraying L’eau de Cover up doesn’t mask the odor.

Smokers said they didn’t want to stay in smoking rooms. It’s one thing to smoke— it’s another to have all of your clothes and hair permeated by cigarette smells.

Having stated the above, it’s interesting that many cafés have extended their terraces because they’re considered exterior space, and awning companies and space-heater suppliers have never done brisker business.

If there’s only a narrow sidewalk, expect to see a few tables and chairs butt up against the façade of many restaurants.  If the restaurant is adjoining a business that closes early for the night, weather permitting, you’ll see tables migrating down in front of them. And it’s not because everyone is dying to eat al fresco.

Does anyone have any sympathy for the addicted? Smoking is harmful and if you read the literature, it has no positive effects. Still there are smokers. Should they be treated as lepers?

As someone who has kicked the smoking habit more times than I care to admit, should I start smoking again, will I be a social outcast and have to move to China where smoking is accepted? I look forward to reading your responses.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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