France Goes Non-Smoking January 1st

France, one of the last countries to ban smoking in restaurants, is ready to ban smoking, alledgedly on January 1st, 2007. Like most things here, it’s not quite a ‘done deal’…(in French, there’s le conditionelle, a verb tense that gives politicians a bit of wiggle room, like shoulda-woulda-coulda).

Restaurant and café owners feel the ban will hurt business. But I’m wondering: Won’t it help? People will tend not to linger, smoking 4-5 cigarettes après dinner, and clear the tables sooner. Will smokers really stop going out to dinner? That same arguement was brought up in California and New York, and hasn’t proved to be true. And smoking will still be allowed in bars, nightclubs, and Tabacs.

Since there’s a big election coming up next spring, the issue’s rather touchy. No one seems to want to ruffle any feathers and alienate anyone, as Prime Minister Villepan learned when he snuffed out his chances of becoming the President of France when he imposed new employment laws for students, who reacted rather fiercely a few months back, forcing him to backtrack and lose much of his political clout. And French folks aren’t necessarily fond of change; Ségolène Royale, a candidate for President, had to backtrack recently when she mistakenly said that French workers need to be flexible, and quickly changed, saying workers needed to be souple, or supple, instead.

Here’s two articles (from the thread at eGullet):

From Le Figaro, in French, and at Expatica, in English.

Any guesses as to what’s actually going to happen?


16 comments

  • Believe me, the smoking ban will have a huge effect on business. I live in Ireland and nobody thought the ban would go through, but it did. As a result, both bars and restaurants have felt the pinch big time. I don’t even smoke anymore, but I resent the ban in restaurants-what a brilliant pleasure an after-dinner cigarette and coffee used to be. Big Brother (and I mean it in the REAL Big Brother way, not the dopey tv show) control drives me mad.

  • Hi David,
    And Germany is probably the very last to join! I’m so over this whole issue here in Germany, the tobacco lobby has done a “fantastic” job over the last decades to convince politicians and restaurant owners that a ban would destroy their existence… The Italians still enjoy their espresso bars – without cigarettes – and no signs of profit loss so far! Same with other European countries, like Ireland!
    When I consciously go to a bar, I know I will have to cope with the smoke. Fine (or actually “not fine”, but I’ll sort of accept it anyway). But if I decide to spent a fair amount of $$$ on a six course dinner, why is it, that the people at the table next to ours get all pissy, if I ask them in a very polite way to stop smoking while I’m eating…? Many smokers I met are non-considerate at all. Thankfully some good restaurants in Munich started taking action for themselves and banned smoking on their properties and the customers’ reactions are supportive not to say smashing…

  • Denver, CO has had no smoking in restaurants except for those with smoking areas, but recently the ban has included all bars, restaurants except DIA (Airport) and casinos. You can smoke in a bar if they have a patio and/or you can go outside. Some people are really upset and others just go with the flow. My complaint was with someone who JUST HAD to sit outside so she could smoke and it was a rainy cool evening in the Rockies…so dinner was cold and so was I. I don’t smoke but I think everyone has a right to do what they want to. I also think the laws are getting carried away…

  • When they enacted the smoking ban in Bloomington, they gave existing establishments 18 months to phase out smoking. During the interim, they could either go cold-turkey, or only allow people aged 18 and over to come in. Any new establishments had to be smoke-free from the get-go.

    Having lived through the ensuing bruhaha, here’s what I predict will happen if the ban goes through in France:

    1. There will be an extended collective moan that will last for the first couple of weeks. People on both sides of the issue will have at it with one another – nd it could get whiney, depending upon how long some smokers can go without a nic-fix… or how many holier-than-thou, rub-it-in-your-face nonsmokers then stand around, loudly declaring, “It’s SO NICE to be able to enjoy this WITHOUT SMOKE!!!!”

    2. The restaurant owners will all complain that they are losing tons of business… even though their establishments will remain crowded. There might be a very small and temporary dip in patronage, as some people may choose to boycott out of spite. However, those individuals will miss going out, and eventually find other ways to get their smokes. (Like… stand directly outside of the door/designated smoking area and complain loudly about how their rights are being infringed upon.)

    3. People will get used to it, and the furor will die down, and much tasty food will be consumed.

  • Welcome to the age of smoke-easies! I can’t believe France is sacrificing its cultural heritage for the sake of good health. Is nothing sacred?

    Of course, 3 years after our ban here in NYC, I admit you get used to the cleaner air. And as with any rules, there are always loopholes that cunning people will exploit.

  • hooray! and ahead of london? i can’t believe it! i’ve always wondered why the french, who are so into their food, would want to smoke all over it.

  • I am guessing that France will end up with a stepped ban and I will believe it when I see it in person whether people will comply.

    Do expect smoke-easies. Being from California, most places are compliant but then there are the smoke-easies, which are almost always bars.

  • Three hour radio shows devoted to the subject, for one thing, with everyone from CNRS researchers to Tabac owners weighing in on the topic.

  • As a nonsmoker, I will of course be thrilled by the change, although I wonder if it will TRULY be enforced in French establishments. In general I tend to grin and bear it when I’m out with friends in bars and restaurants, as I don’t want to be a “spoilsport” so to speak and ruin everyone’s enjoyment… At the same time, I draw the line when I’m trying to enjoy a good meal and someone is smoking right next to me and not making any effort at all to blow the smoke in the other direction… And recently I’ve found myself even more intolerant to smokers as the smoke has often led to unpleasant headaches — and one thing I cannot bear is coming home with smoke-infested clothing. I honestly don’t know how they do it themselves!

    Of course, I don’t want to be a nazi about it, so again, I can respect people’s choices on the whole. But I think the regulation will really help improve conditions — again, IF it is enforced. Because there is supposed to be a current law requiring all restaurants in France (particularly in Paris) to have a non-smoking section somewhere in their establishment, but you see SO many still without them, particularly the smaller, cozy places which simply cannot have non-smoking sections for lack of space. But then there are the chosen few who do not allow smoking at all, for everyone’s comfort…

    I think France will come around to the adjustment eventually, but it’s going to take a lot of time!

  • If restaurants were non-smoking I’d stay longer and have desert, instead of running away to have a breathe!
    I like the way you wrote our Prime Minister’s name, it is a bit like vile pan (méchante casserole) ha ha ha :o)

  • I would be delighted if people abide by this new law. Such a prohibition has not affected business in San Francisco, as far as I can tell. But I believe that Paris has a “pooper scooper” ordinance in force as well, and last time I checked the bottom of my shoes after a walk there I came to the conclusion that compliance seems to be less than total. (Indeed I saw exactly one person pick up after her dog, and I was almost prompted to applaud.) I have to ask myself whether this would be much different.

  • As someone who still sneaks the occasional ciggie, I didn’t mind at all when smoking was banned in my fair city, St. Paul, Minn. in restaurants. I don’t like smelling smoke while I eat. When the new mayor took office last January, one of the first things he did was support the more Draconian ban employed by our sister city, Minneapolis, which also bans smoking in establishments making greater than 50 percent of sales from alcohol (bars). That has crushed many of them. Smokers have gone elsewhere (sometimes literally across the street, crossing the county line). I’m not sure how Paris restaurants make most of their money–in the U.S., for the most part, independent restaurateurs boost their margins by marking up the booze. Smokers drank more booze at the bar. Now they’re not there. At least here in the U.S., I’ve still gotta believe there’s a better way of phasing in a total ban so the neighborhood joint can survive and the Applebee’s doesn’t move in. Paris without smoking. Interesting thought.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that my walks on a nice summer evening in my neighborhood (which has many restaurants) are a whole lot smokier, since everybody’s outside suckin’ them down.

  • Personally, for me, it can’t happen soon enough. While I don’t mind cigarette smoke if I’m somewhere where there’s ventilation or fresh air breezing through, whenever I go out to eat, I’m amazed at how many cigarettes one person (sitting on both sides of me) can smoke during a meal. I’ve been to too many meals where I had to sit next to someone who chain-smoked throughout their meal, oblivious to others who are trying to eat. Recent polls show a majority of French people support the ban, yet it keeps getting shot down in the Parliament (hmmm…could there be any tobacco money changing hands?)

    If there’s fresh air around me (although opening a window here means you’ll get gravely ill) I really don’t mind the smoke, but it’s really too much. Seriously. And while I’m happy to let people smoke (and ride motorcycles, and do whatever) when I can’t eat my dinner, then have to send my clothes to the dry cleaners the next day, that’s an intrusion.

    I think that letting the cafés and Tabac remain smoking places is a good solution. I remember when I worked at Chez Panisse, and the café was half smoking, half non-smoking. All the waiters bitterly hated working in the smoking section (even the ones who smoked), since they said people tended to over-smoke, for some reason. I think all these bans in public places, like parks for example, is rather over-reaching

    But more importantly, can we ban perfume in public?
    Now that makes me gag!

  • it’s working in ireland, and it’s working in italy (i’m surprised with this!) and let’s hope it’ll work in france too!

    i enjoy going out so much more nowadays, to be able to come home without smelling as if i have smoked a whole pack by myself, or feel like i must do my laundry in the middle of the night!

    ah… miracle can, and do, happen… :)

  • Ha. Like anyone is going to tell the French what to do. In my past few trips to France, I have more than once seen a Frenchman casually light up under the “No Smoking (Pas de Fumer?)” sign in the train. They might pass a law, but it has to be enforced. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • The folks at Zagat were kind enough to forward me this article, written by Tim Zagat, about the effect of smoking bans. You can read it here.