Smoking

cigarette butts in paris

You probably don’t like looking at that picture above. And I hear ya. But that’s what some of the streets look like in Paris. It’s something that’s become such a problem that the mayor of Paris has decided to try to tackle the issue, and I share his concerns, although progress is evidentially slow-going. But what confounds me, as well as others, is why do so many people in Paris smoke? And why is the number of smokers increasing in France, when the US and other countries are seeing a decline?

Tabac in Paris

Not everyone does smoke in Paris, but walking around the city, it’s hard not to think that everyone does when seemingly a good number of people on the street, or sitting at outdoor café tables, either appears to be lighting something up, or flicking something out. Go to the movies and before the credits roll, folks have already put an unlit cigarette in their mouths with the lighters poised and ready so they can flame up the minute they step outside. Ditto with the métro exits and outside the airport. And walk by any office, or school in mid-afternoon, and the workers and students are lined up on the sidewalk, puffing away.

Due to the stresses of living in city, it’s natural that people in Paris will be heavier smokers than the rest of the country, but on the whole, cigarette smoking enjoys great popularity in France. It’s estimated that one-third of the people in France smoke and that figure jumps when you talk about the 38% of kids aged 15-16 years old who’ve smoked a cigarette recently (10% more than other European countries), and I’ve heard estimates that 50% of teenage girls smoke in France, a number which is on the rise.

1664 and cigarettes tabac paris france

Smoking in France is not stigmatized, and reasons why people smoke so much in France – more than most other European countries – aren’t exactly clear. Like in other places, many teenage boys and girls smoke because of the “cool” factor for sure, but there is also a desire to not gain weight, especially amongst women (and not eat) hence the typical café tableau amongst friends of cell phones, cigarettes, and Coca-Zero (diet Coke) on café tables. (And I’m not the arbiter of “cool”, but I’m not sure how cool it is to support multinational tobacco and soft drink companies.)

But like the mayor noted, it’s not cool to look down the street and notice the residue of smokers which blight this beautiful city: there are literally billions of cigarette butts scattered on the street, which take 12 years to decompose. It’s estimated that there are 30 billion mégots (cigarette butts) on the streets of Paris, which the mayor of Paris has vowed to tackle with a proposed €68 fine per infraction. It’s not quite clear who is going to be issuing those tickets, and it’d be interesting to see some statistics on how many were handed out.

(Talk about bringing in some much-needed revenue – 30 billion x €68 =_________ !)

ashtray

In an effort to at least get people to stub out their cigarettes and throw them in garbage cans, the city of Paris has installed 10,000 “ashtrays” attached to the public garbage cans. But if people can’t even be bothered to stamp out their smoldering cigarette when tossing the mégots (butts) on the ground, are they going to walk 10 meters (32 feet) to extinguish their cigarette? I’ve not seen anyone use one but perhaps they will just take some getting used to and people will, indeed, begin to stub their cigarettes out on them, and throw the butts in the plastic garbage bags, attached.

Personally, I don’t have anything against smoking. (I smoked for a while as well.) We live in a society where we tolerate a number of behaviors that aren’t healthy and/or infringe on others, which include wearing perfume or Axe for Men, driving cars, overpopulating, talking loudly on cell phones, and drinking alcohol. Those are things that, for the most part, we just have to accept about each other. And some people want to smoke, and I am fully supportive of that and that we, as a society, have to accept that we all have our vices. It’s just when things become excessive – the loud drunk, the table of chain-smokers, riding the métro next to a jeune homme wearing Axe, or being seated next to someone in a restaurant wearing too much perfume – then, it becomes a concern.

cigarette butts paris Marlboros

The two arguments I’ve heard most often are, 1) “Well, we’re all going to die sometime!”, and 2) “Ne fume pas? C’est très américain..” (“No smoking? That’s so American..”)

The problem with those two arguments is that, number-one, most of the people saying the first phrase are young and healthy. They haven’t seen people dying of cancer and other smoking-related illnesses, which I have seen, and let me tell you, they are awful, horrible, excruciating ways to die. And the second, that no-smoking is somehow “American” doesn’t cut it because I remember when people smoked in movie theatres and on airplanes in America. And it was during my lifetime that I’ve seen a gradual shift from smoking to non-smoking. People were flipping out when they banned smoking on airplanes in America and now it’s just part of our normal lives not to allow it, similar to many other countries.

(And with 46.6 million smokers in America, I don’t think that non-smoking is exactly très américain.)

Then there is the trait of ‘doing the opposite’ of what you’re told, or doing whatever is bad for you just because, well – c’est comme ça. I don’t know how smoking affects health care costs in France (on the other hand, cigarettes are heavily taxed and cigarette sales augment the tax coffers), but with 66,000 to 73,000 people a year dying in France, it’s likely a fairly substantial burden on the excellent French health care system and social structure.

cigarette butts

A new law is being considered which will make all cigarette packs plain white, with no logo on them, and increasing the price of cigarettes in France a few euros per pack. Right now, one pack of cigarettes costs approximately €7 (the minimum price is €6,1), so if you smoke a pack a day, that’s about €2500 annually. Since the average salary in France is $27,789, or €20,080, that’s more than 10% of someone’s salary just for cigarettes. Personally, I’m not sure how people can afford to spend more than ten-percent of their pre-tax income on cigarettes.

There are days I walk around, watching everyone smoke, and think about all the trash and cigarette butts littering our beautiful streets and boulevards that folks have worked so hard to build and maintain. Sure, Paris isn’t a postcard; it’s a real city with all that comes with it. And I accept that. I just wish there was a bit more civic pride when it came to discarding cigarette butts, and I wonder why there isn’t a groundswell of concern at how many billion of cigarette butts are simply tossed adn left on the street.

cigarette butts

It’s easy to wave it off with a chuckle, saying “Oh, that’s just the French…” and smile. But I’m not sure that’s helpful in curbing smoking-related illnesses, confronting the pollution and toxic runoff from the cigarette butts going into the environment, and marring the look of what is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

So what will be the future of smoking in France? Will smoking rates for young people continue to escalate? Or at some point, will smoking be stigmatized, like it has been in other countries and that number will decrease? And can the mayor’s initiative persuade people not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground, and reduce the amount of pollution on the streets? With the health care system running at a deficit, is there some way they can curb smoking-related illness to keep costs down and reduce the deficit? I don’t have the answer to any of these, but I’ve asking myself these questions lately. I don’t know why it’s been so prevalent in my thoughts lately. Perhaps I should just stop thinking about it, and just step over them, and keep walking.



Related Links and Posts

In Paris, a Hunt for Those Who Dodge Dog Duties (NPR)

Should I Move to France?

Managing Paris Expectations (Lost in Cheeseland)

15 Things I’d Miss in Paris If I Moved Away

France: An Ambivalent War Against Smoking (The Atlantic)

Paris Installs Snuffers on Trash Bins
(NYT)

202 comments

  • I just spent this past Thursday driving three hours in the snow in the early morning hours to be by the side of my 34 year son as he had an emergency heart catheterization and two stents inserted to open almost totally closed arteries. Oh, and he had a (thankfully mild) heart attack. Yes, a heart attack. At 34. And yes, he smokes. So are the butts unsightly? Or simply obscene.

  • I was wondering if you had been to Montreal, Quebec, where there’s been a smoking ban in indoor public spaces since 31 May 2006. The province eliminated designated smoking rooms in 2008. In one Montreal municipaity there’s a bylaw since Feb. 2012 that bans smoking within 20 metres of public playgrounds and athletic fields, and also outlaws lighting up in public parks during special events. Sadly, young people are smoking in greater numbers. This might spread to other parts of the city so that outdoor cafés in the city don`t permit smoking either.

  • Really interesting to read! I’m from Australia but living in France for 6 months and slowly the idea of smoking is becoming the norm, (not planning on starting smoking) but have accepted that a lot of French do. But it is definitely noticeable the amount of teens who smoke in France compared to Australia and completely different attitudes too.

  • Maybe let it be? maybe we can’t rule the world? Their average lifespan is 2 years longer than ours.

  • i am a little shocked at how many cigarette butts are on the ground in that picture!!! i always hated to see a cig. butt ground out on the stairs in my building in NYC. But I think it goes along with the whole ritual of smoking to either throw it dramatically on the ground or put it out with your foot on the ground. Rituals are like that. I am a non-smoker but understand rituals. I wonder if putting out the cigarette properly and disposing of it is something that would “ruin” the experience for smokers. From having a sister and 2 close friends who are die-hard smokers, over 60, and loving their cigarettes to the utmost (Americans), I definitely have seen a rebel element in it.

  • That is such a shame to see your beautiful city in such a state. I am visiting Paris soon and am sorry the French havent caught up with the rest of the civilised world. In Australia, the government made the tax sky high on cigarettes, also brought in plain packaging, our televisions were bombarded with ads explaining the health issues. It worked and many more people have given it up, including myself.

  • I believe that everyone has the right to destroy their life in any way they see fit. Surely smokers die earlier and thus generally contribute more than they take out of social welfare?

  • Seems the real issue is teaching people to be responsible for their waste, and the city should help with this. But what has given people the idea that it is their right to just throw trash on the ground, esp. when it’s still on fire, lol!? My mother made me EAT, (within reason: gum wrappers, mostly), whatever I threw on the ground as a child – so, yeah, I grew up to be an environmentalist, lol….only took a couple times and I got the message.

    I once heard a native american healer say that the abuse of tobacco is about repressing anger, which I thought was interesting, as he should know since they’ve (native american’s), have been both smoking, and justifiably angry, as long as anyone. In the US, most of us just buy a bag of chips, and crunch our frustrations away. In France I guess they light up.

    Maybe a city beautification plan would motivate everyone to take responsibility for their trash.

  • @Asti I agree that everyone has the right to do what they want to themselves, but the problem with smokers is that they contribute to the air pollution: second-hand smoke affects those around them and that is just irresponsible and selfish. And clearly from the pictures, they don’t seem to care much about littering either…
    As for contribution: the medical care they will end up needing will likely be more than they can afford on their own… Can I say a lose-lose situation here?

    • @k When people choose to not drive cars and not to have more than 1 child I will be on your side. Personally I do neither and pay ~40% tax so I’ll smoke.

  • I am a nurse, and one of the saddest things I have ever had to do was help my patient, who was dying of lung cancer, to the smoking room to have a cigarette.Of cousre, since then, there’s no smoking allowed on the hospital premises, and the patient has died.

    • When we were in high school, we had someone who had their larynx removed with a hole in their throat to speak through, come and talk to us. Then they told us how they continued to smoke even after the procedure. When you’re a teenage, you think you are invincible because those things don’t happen to people who are 15 years old. But I still remember that some 40 years later.

  • People get to choose if they want to risk their health I suppose but I’m equally appalled at the blight of their decision to litter. I mean I can’t get over anyone thinking it’s OK to just throw trash on the ground. C’est horrible!!

  • There will soon be even fewer smokers in America. The new health care proposals are going to allow health insurance providers to charge a substantially higher premier for people who smoke, especially older people. It will increase their health insurance premiums by as much as 6,000 dollars a year! So I think one of the reasons for fewer Americans smoking is that they are already paying higher prices for health care if they are smokers.

    Also there has been strong anti smoking education campaigns in the schools for more than 30 years and that is still going strong.

    • I’m kind of on the fence about a multi-tiered system of health care costs. Yes, some people smoke, but others drink (like me), and some have children, or drive motorcycles. And each has very levels of extra costs involved. Am not sure what the answer is, whether it’s a good idea to start factoring in all those variables into people’s rates. I do know there is an initiative in France to include certain fitness activities in the social security (health insurance) reimbursement system, to encourage people to be active, which I support.

  • I think the difference between smoking and other annoying vices like too much Axe or loud cell-phone talking is that smoking damages *my* health as well. I don’t care if someone wants to smoke, drink too much, eat bacon all day, not wear a seatbelt or whatever. Like you said, everyone has their vices (mine? Cheese and chocolate). But my chocolate consumption doesn’t give anyone else cancer, emphysema, or asthma attacks. And I somehow manage to throw my chocolate wrapper in the garbage without any difficulty. Billions of cigarette butts in the street is just nasty.

    French is my favorite language, Paris is one of my favorite cities, French food is one of my favorite cuisines. But in this matter I wouldn’t be offended to be considered “tres americain.” I love my lungs and my planet too much to give anyone a pass on that kind of behavior. Yuck.

  • Those pictures are so disgusting. But while looking at them and reading your piece I did think, what are they going to do about the dog poo? To me, that’s the most disgusting thing about the streets of Paris, although of course it’s not such a health hazard as smoking!

  • Ash trays on top of litter bins would solve this problem

  • David, first of all, I love the site. Happened upon it looking for a place to direct my readers for a kimchi recipe, so thanks for that. Smoking is pretty common here in Barcelona where I live, as well. Lots of people smoke and cigarette butts abound in public places, since smoking is no longer allowed in indoors, the way it was when I first studied in Spain as an undergraduate—people smoked in the hallways outside classrooms at my University.

    That said, I don’t think making it impossible for smokers to smoke anywhere but outside is much of a plan. It’s a personal choice (not my choice), but if a bar wants to allow smoking and it bothers me, I’ll go somewhere else, and do. Besides, now smokers can only smoke on terraces and that often means either putting up with the smoke on the terrace, or walking through it to get inside…..

  • I find that the chain-smoking by teenagers quite worrisome.
    I don’t smoke – I have serious asthma and lighting up would make my doctor flip a lid. My parents smoke while growing up, it was the time of turkish non-filter cigs and second-hand smoke galore. I don’t think the health effects were having much of an effect back then. This was during the late 70s and early 80s and thus before the relenting force of tobacco companies started to yield some.
    As a teenager, you Think of yourself as invinsible. People could come and say don’t smoke, you risk all sorts of cancer and lung disease which will inevtibly smother the person to death.
    I’m happy society is doing what it can to curb smoking in public spaces. After the ban in restaurant in bars etc., many owners piped up in saying that they’d lose business. They didn’t. And I, who hadn’t been to a bar in years started going out for drinks.

  • there are a lot more “megots” on the sidewalks/streets now because of the law recently (5 years ago) passed forbidding smoking in indoor work places. You see groups of smokers huddled outside office buildings now. So smoking has been brought more out into the open!

    • Yes, but there are usually ashtrays provided now. In fact, that first picture I took in this post, at the top, was right in front of a school with a very large ashtray and a sign telling people to use the ashtray and not toss their mégots (and other garbage) on the street.

  • How much extra tax must be applied to cigarette?
    Resulting revenue must cover all the costs to the society. Indeed, you can count many items that should be included to the sum. However, the costs, at least, should contain not only all the health care burdens but also the cleaning expenses.

  • Hi David,

    I love your blog and appreciate your recipes etc.

    I don’t want to be that guy, but the issue you are discussing is littering, which is indeed anti social, not smoking, which needn’t be.

    It is up to each of us to choose how we invest our health. I am an ex smoker, but loved it when I did it….

    Stick to food and drink please!

    (sorry :D)

  • In the days when I smoked, I was sitting at a pavement café in Paris and asked the waiter for an ashtray. He looked at me as if I were quite insane, snorted and said, “Par terre, madame.” In other words, chuck it on the ground.

  • hmmm…all of this seems so easy, if folks would just cultivate some manners. Both I and my partner (he’s French, for however that figures into the mix) are quite regular smokers. You might even describe us as “hardcore smokers”. However?… We don’t smoke, even in our own (and, for that matter, large) house when we have non-smoking guests, and we certainly don’t ever smoke in front of children/teenagers…..we step out onto a porch. It’s EXTREMELY unpleasant for non-smokers to be around smoke. I’m highly aware (although, after a few drinks, I have to remind myself) that it really,really physically bothers some folks….their eyes burn and their throats are affected just as surely as mine were when I had my first cigarette.

    Personally, and I’ve said many times over the past ten or so years?….I’m GLAD everytime I hear of some new ordinance banning smoking in a public space (restaurants, bars, airplanes, etcetera). A previous commentator was quite right in saying that he/she (can’t recall which it was) might very well over-indulge in chocolates and cheese, but that doesn’t harm anyone else. Secondary smoke does….even if it “only” makes their eyes burn.

    Quite frankly (and at the obvious risk of bringing down the tone of your entire blog)? I was at a party, fairly recently, when a guy started to light up….and a woman (also a guest at the house) politely asked him not to do so….adding that, sorry-but(?) smoke really bothered her. The guy said he was tired of hearing about “Secondary smoke”. She levelled a glance at him and said “Okay, fine….how about I sit next to you and tell you “Get Over It! a couple of my farts aren’t going to kill you….I mean, they make me feel better, you know?”

    The weirdest dang thing was that I recognized his lighting-up as being part of his “cool” routine (she was a very attractive woman, and he was trying to strike up conversation with her). Suffice it to say that she didn’t leave the party with plans to rendezvous with him some night later that week?????

    when my partner and/or I go anywhere other than our house, we carry a little, metal Altoids tin in a pocket. ALL cigarette butts go into that, rather than on the ground or in an ashtray (even if one’s provided). The final fact is that, if the tin’s filling up?….well, I’m smoking too much. Amusingly enough, this is a trick (or maybe just an example of not subjecting other folks to your own habits/addictions) that old Southern ladies used to have. It went along with ladies-don’t-smoke-while-standing, ladies-don’t-smoke-while-walking, ladies-don’t-smoke-while-other-people-are-eating, etcetera.

    Quite aside from all the Hollywood images of potential lovers sharing a cigarette (ooooh! that moment when he light her cigarette off the tip of his????!!!!)?…smoking is an intrinsically private habit (unless there happen to be some other smokers, and you find yourself stranded on the porch with them). I should emphasize that my partner and I are often in non-smokers’ houses, and we’re told “Oh, please…..go ahead and smoke…”. We simply won’t and don’t. If we’re in an urban setting (we happen to live in a big, old rambling house in a very small town) and we know we’re going to dinner at some 13th floor apartment?…..well, just chew some nicorette gum before you arrive and exercise some self-control for only three or so hours.

    “Quitting” is something I intend to get around to doing. In the meantime, I’m very glad to follow my own rules about smoking…..and, yes, there have been plenty of times (particularly in the past five or so years) that, having excused myself to step out onto a porch or some sidewalk, I’ve thought “Oh, how stupid….I ENJOY those folks back in there, and I’m missing out on the conversation just to have a damned cigarette?….how STUPID of me….”.

    Well, folks should just have manners when it comes to their definitively private vices.

    thanks for the obviously evocative post.

    David Terry
    http://www.davidterryart.com

  • Has the number of butts in the streets gone up since the EU banned smoking INSIDE public places? Seems like we see a lot more smokers OUTSIDE on our trips to Paris now and they just toss their butts. It is a good idea to give them a place to put them.

  • I visited Paris for my first time last summer. I had heard, of course, that the smoking rate was high, and to be prepared for alot of second hand smoke. And I was prepared, and it was not a problem.
    I was not prepared for the amount of butts on the streets. Honestly, it took away some of the amazing beauty of the city for me. It really puzzled me. Didn’t anyone care how truly disgusting it looked when you looked down? Or sat in a lovely little sidewalk cafe and had your feet in butts?
    I thought it was just me being “too American” and uptight until I saw this post. I hope the mayors efforts work.

  • Buenos Dias David,

    Like the NPR piece highlights, either use the civility police to enforce responsible cigarette disposal or hire another group of plain-clothed enforcers. Their salary should include an incentive plan for meeting ticket quotas and be comparable to the national average. As you pointed out, think of the revenue potential. Focus efforts around schools so behavior is shaped early. It’s also wise to up the taxes. At some point, people have to make choices on what they need and what they desire. For those who truly need cigarettes, help is available.

    Both dog poop and cig butts are disgusting, but at least dog poop decomposes quickly. This is a big issue an I’m glad to read about it in your blog.

    Besos,
    Suzanne

  • Hi there!
    Well I must say a few years back the Mayor of Paris (another one) decided to fine people who let their dog’s excrement on the sidewalk. I never saw somebody get a fine, I don’t know if people got more civic sense, if the propreté de Paris did a better job, but I can tell you, things are way better now. So there’s hope.

    I really think it’s considered fashionable and cool to smoke here in Paris. Unfortunately. If you don’t like the smoke, you’re not cool man! And I think the consciousness of diseases and all health problems comes later in our lives. I stopped smoking years and years ago, and I still remember, when you smoke, your mind finds really good reasons to go on and on and on.
    What’s terrible is that we didn’t find a way to make it uncool to teenagers.

  • Wow, between this post and NPR’s piece on dog poop this weekend- remind me not to wear cute (especially open toe) shoes next time I’m in Paris !

  • Well put, David!
    I too, find a total lack of civic pride among Parisians. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it is also one of the dirtiest!
    I love visiting Paris, but have to put up with excessive smoking and dog merde when I’m there. On a beautiful day last summer, my husband and I had lunch a a very nice cafe that had outdoor seating, only to be seatead downwind next to a couple chain smoking!
    I really wanted to tell them to let up their smoking but was not sure how they would respond to a tourist reprimanding them.
    You think I should have spoken up?

    • Well, if you’re sitting in a smoking section (ie: the terrace of a café) you can’t really ask people not to smoke there. It’s something that came up when they banned smoking indoors – that the smokers all clustered on the outdoor terraces, including the chain-smokers, which many smokers seem to be.

      (Interestingly, before the indoor smoking ban, I’d had people on occasion, sitting at the table next to me, ask if I minded if they smoked!)

      But generally speaking, if it’s something that you don’t want to smell, it’s best to either sit indoors or find a seat not year people likely to chain smoke, nost notably, groups of teenage girls.

  • I guess someone needs to support those tobacco companies and all of the great philanthropy that they do.. ?? haha.. I did see a blip about you in the NYT that was nice. Any chance you’ll be back in the states soon?

  • @asti’s comment reminded me of a This American Life story from a couple years ago about a study Phillip Morris commissioned that showed early death from cigarettes actually saved a socialized healthcare system money. You can read a transcript of the story here http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/412/transcript – look at Act 3.

    The next trend in the US related to tobacco use is for employers to start refusing to employ people who smoke – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/us/11smoking.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 This leads me to then think, 50 years from now will be do the same thing related to obesity?

    • @abbie I’m familiar with papers along those lines. The danger is to people who are already cancer prone. I predict that next alcohol and then coffee drinkers will be targeted.

      First they came for the communists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

      Then they came for the socialists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

      Then they came for me,
      and there was no one left to speak for me.

      • The danger is to everyone within range of a cigarette smoke haze. I don’t think sitting next to a coffee drinker or someone who has had a couple of glasses of wine is going to potentially effect my health quite as badly.
        This might help: http://www.quitnow.gov.au

      • Oh, Asti. Please tell me you’re not comparing the “persecution” of smokers to the atrocities that befell millions of people at the hands of the Nazis. Seriously. Gets some perspective. You not being able to smoke anywhere you want is the very definition of a first world problem.

        • Yes I do liken it to the Nuremberg Laws. Not just the smoking but the general belief that others have the right to run my life for me. Certainly on the smoking front I feel bullied and harassed, forced to cower in doorways or be exposed to the elements or predatory men on the street. Surely it would be reasonable to install some seats and awnings somewhere so a person can sit down like a human being?

          • I would prefer it that the conversation did not include a discussion of the atrocities of World Wars, and so forth. For the record, in Paris, outdoor seating areas (and ashtrays) are usually provided in cafés for smokers and the bars and restaurants I see. There was even a bench and a table, with an ashtray outside a vegetarian restaurant I ate at the other day for lunch specifically for smokers.

            This post is about the garbage and cigarette butts that are littering the streets, and some thoughts about why there is so much smoking here, and some questions I was had about why it’s on the rise in various demographics, specifically young people.

  • I have never understood why people think it’s okay to throw cigarette butts on the ground. I doubt many of these same people would casually toss a food wrapper or used cup on the ground.

  • Those pictures made me cry! I’m a smoker. I never, under any circumstances, throw my butt on the ground. If I have no designated place to put it, it goes in my pocket until I find a place. But I wonder about something another poster brought up. It seems, in my many trips to Paris over the last 30 years, that the population is used to the government performing all sorts of services for them so perhaps do the smokers just believe that the street sweepers (or whatever they are called there) will remedy this problem? You’d think that the mountains of butts in the streets would be proof that the government isn’t going to take care of the problem. Butts aren’t like dog merde though, and could be relatively easily swept up by street cleaners. Sounds like a good way to put homeless/jobless people to work, oui?

  • I can move away from someone smothered in Axe. I can sit next to a drunk and still choose not to drink. I have to leave a party where one person in the room is smoking because I have have a serious allergy to smoke and no matter where I go in the room the smoke follows me. If I don’t I will be in the hospital in an oxygen tent after 10 minutes. Smoking doesn’t just have consequences for the person smoking the actual cigarette. I don’t have a choice of where I go because of one person’s need for a cigarette. How fair is that?

  • Way to go, David. You should feel proud to care about the city you live in. Don’t be apologetic. Let’s face it. There is just no excuse for throwing litter on the ground whether it be a candy wrapper or a cigarette butt. Every city could get rid of this problem in two weeks. Just start severely ticketing people who litter. Simple. Not many people run red lights because they know they’ll get a massive ticket. Why not do the same to people who trash their own city? I don’t feel sorry for people who trash the place they live. Go get ‘em, Dave!

  • First of all, since this is a food blog, shouldn’t you’re main concern be that all those people smoking are ruining their senses of taste and smell ? It’s been proven that it does, and although a cigarette and a glass of wine is really cool, the guy without the cigarette actually has more chance of enjoying the wine to a greater extent.

    The problem with smoking is not the addiction (which can be overcome “physically” pretty fast), it’s the false impression that it relaxes you. There is 0 smoker who liked his first cigarette, so the taste is just something they got used to, there is 0 smoker who started smoking for another reason than to be cool, to fit in, to not feel stupid, so intelligently deciding that you want to become a smoker does not exist…

    However, once people smoke, they all claim it relaxes them, when in fact it’s just the opposite. The cigarette creates stress a few minutes after it’s inhalation, thus giving the smoker the impression that he needs another cigarette to be relaxed again, but smoking doesn’t help with the relaxing part, it just help recreate the “post stress syndrome” which makes it seem like the cigarette was relaxing…

    I’m not talking about the physical addiction, which again can be overcome fairly quickly, this is a much more perverse phenomenon. And unless the smoker has either enough will to just quit without question, or to actually investigate and analyze all these parameters on an intellectual level, he will never be able to be sufficiently aware to quit.

    Making smokers feel bad about health, littering, etc. will only make them want to smoke more as they will feel they are not understood.
    Making smokers realize on their own that they didn’t like their first cigarette, that it tastes like crap, that they started for adolescent reasons (don’t say the word stupid or they will again go into “rebel” mode), and most importantly that it actually doesn’t relax them… then they will probably stop on their own.

    I didn’t say it was easy…

    • Personally, I’m not all that concerned if people lose their tastebuds. True, I find it odd when chefs and cooks smoke because if someone is interested in food – and taste – when I see someone smoking outside of their restaurant, it gives me pause about how the food tastes.

      (On another note, Fernand Point, the great French chef of La Pyramide – where Marjolaine was invented, instructed his waiters that if anyone lights up at the table before they are done with their meal to immediately bring them l’addition, the check, telling them that they were obviously done eating.)

  • I’ve noticed that it seems the biggest complaint of non-smokers is the accumulation of the cigarette butts in the streets. I smoked for 30 years (I quit 3 years ago and gained 15 lbs.) Even as a smoker I was disgusted by all of the butts left in the street or grass or even over-flowing ashtrays. They’re unsightly and smelly. Now as a non-smoker it’s the smell that I can’t stand. I visit with some friends that still smoke in their house and while I’m there I don’t really notice the smell, however the smell permeates my clothing and when I get home I immediately change clothes and throw them in the washer. I smelled like that for many years and had no idea how bad it was. It’s funny that we always relate smoking with ‘relaxing’. I’m a lot more relaxed now that I don’t smoke! I don’t get irritated and jumpy when my nicotine level goes down and I need to find a place to light up. And even though I’m not thrilled with the extra 15 lbs., I’m incredibly happy that I don’t smoke anymore and would gladly take the extra pounds over the habit of smoking.

  • @asti, I know exactly what you mean. Someone is always trying to “save” us from ourselves, and it’s none of their business. We all need to stand up for what we believe in, however it should be for reasons more significant than someone elses bad habit. We should concentrate on making ourselves into better people instead of honing in on what we believe “other people” should either be doing or not doing. It’s very easy to make a stand when it’s something that isn’t going to take any effort on our part, -we just tell someone else what they should be doing. Indifference to the important issues is our worst enemy.

  • David, my reply to Asti is in no way disrespectful to your commentary. I know exactly what you mean also, and I in no way meant that I think you’re telling anyone what to do. Whew. If I still smoked, I would definitely need one right now. ; )

  • Once on a cruise in Alaska, I saw a man flip his cigarette into beautiful Glacier Bay. We almost threw him in to retrieve it. When confronted, he shrugged his shoulders and feigned an inability to understand English. Amazing to me that so many smokers don’t consider tossing their burnt-out stubs as littering. I suspect the Seine is lined in cigarette butts 2 meters deep.

  • just another consideration ..there are absolute poisons in those butts… leaching directly into the soil and the water when it rains. Oh, butt you knew that.

  • Thanks for the enlightening and thoughtful post. For someone who has never been to Paris (like me!), but who has seen the smog that literally penetrates the crumbling walls of the Colosseum in Rome, it often frustrates me that people do not take care of these things for others’; they may see it every day, but there are millions of people in the world who would give anything just to walk the streets of Paris (litter-free!) once in their life! :D

    It is disturbing (and disgusting) to see such rapid smoking trends in a 1st world country. I respectfully disagree with @Jacob – I don’t just come here for FOOD, I come here for CULTURE of Paris, too, and this is a topic that is fascinating and deserves a voice.

    Parisians had better start being thankful for what they have (good health) before it goes awry in a very bad way. Americans don’t smoke just because they get insurance benefits, but because smoking has been a serious trend in the United States for CENTURIES (like pipes/cigars/indoor smoking) and generations of children have seen their Aunts, Uncles, Mothers and Fathers succumb to the deadly effects of this horrible habit first-hand.

    Also, I would not compare wearing Axe or talking loud to SMOKING, because smoking destroys air quality, the smoker’s quality of life, and takes fathers away from children. Last time I checked, Axe body spray (as annoying as it may be! :D) doesn’t do any of those things.

    And, from the ‘annoying others’ comparison, Axe body spray sure is annoying, but as someone who copes with restrictive airway disorders, I PROMISE you that Axe dosen’t work nearly as terrible maladies on my lungs as does second hand smoke…there is just nothing that compares to second hand smoke (maybe besides the toxins released by burning molten plastic in house fires, which cause serious lung damage, too!).

    Thanks, again, for the thoughtful post. I appreciate you bringing attention to this issue and it’s a nice little piece of culture for someone from the states! ;D

  • Wow, that is really disgusting. It boggles my mind why so many people smoke. I have friends who are now just entering into their 30′s who have been smoking about half of their lives now. It really makes me sad to see and to hear that smokers cough creeping into their lungs. Anyways, I hope things get cleaned up in Paris.

  • Thank you for writing this. I live in Paris, and you have touched on all the points that really matter to me. I would imagine the cost of our healthcare related to smoking is actually much higher than in other developed countries.

  • Forgot to mention air pollution and the increase in global warming that smoking certainly contributes to.

  • It’s really interesting to see how attitudes towards smoking have changed (and I would say, not so gradually, but astonishingly quickly).
    When I was an exchange student in California in the early nineties, I was struck by what I then perceived as a militant anti-smoking attitude, compared to what I was used to from my native Germany. In Germany, I was used to coming home from a night out with clothes that smelt like an ash tray – in California, I met people who were concerned about going abroad and having to stay with a family of smokers (I was especially puzzled by the fact that they seemed to think of this not only as a issue concerning health, but also morals).
    When I started going to university in Germany in the mid-nineties, people were happily smoking away in the seminar library (I’m not kidding. There were ashtrays everywhere). Today this would be absolutely unthinkable. And we’ve all become used to going out and not having to worry about stinky clothes. Or the trains – the smoking cars have disappeared, and not even the smokers in my acquaintance miss them much.
    I guess what I take from this is mainly this: our sense of “normal”, acceptable and rational behaviour is much more fluid and changeable than we’d often like to think.

  • Jeez these pictures really make me sad… Weirdly enough, I’m extremely proud that I am a French non-smoker ! (with a family of smokers and a group of friends..smokers as well)

  • Wow, I knew that Europe was big on smoking. I had no idea, however, that the streets of Paris could look like that. It is sad. Not only does the picture allude to the smoking habits of the French but also the amount of litter caused by the smokers. Just because you smoke doesn’t mean you can’t put it out then throw away your butt!

  • I had the extreme displeasure of having to ride in a Volkswagen Bug as a child with a stepfather who smoked four packs of Pall Mall a day. And no, asking for a window to be rolled down wasn’t an option. But he’s dead now, and I’m glad to say that those who choose to smoke here (have to do so outside) but are fairly neat about it. My first visit will be this coming May and this was an eye opener.

  • I am not sure if smoking is on the rise in Canada but it does seem like there are a lot more younger people smoking nowadays! This includes my sister, her boyfriends and literally all their friends. Every 30 minutes they are heading outside to have a smoke with each other leaving their ashes and ends upon my balcony.
    My sister admits that she only craves a cigarette when she is have a drink with her friends.
    I just don’t get it. We’ve had two people die of cancer in our family and they don’t seem to pay any mind to it.

  • Dorothee: It is kind of amazing how attitudes change. I was watching Mad Med recently, where doctors smoked and pregnant women lit up with their cocktails. (And there is a great scene when the family has a picnic in a park and when they’re done, the mom just shakes all the garbage off the blanket, on to the lawn, and the family gets in the car and drives away.) The smoking ban in restaurants in France was expected to get a lot of opposition and sure, there were people that insisted on lighting up on the métro platforms, trains, etc.. but that kind of petered out and now it’s just normal not to smoke in restaurants.

  • Very interesting…….. making comments and jokes for a country that you chose to live in, and a city that in a way you make a living out of . As an ex pat I never criticized the situation in any country I have lived, always accepted natives and their habits, let alone that I never earned extra money writing a book, blogging or twitting about what I dislike. I managed to have a perfect accent in the foreign languages though , and understand the history and culture and accept any oddities.

    • I suppose one tactic is to living in a foreign country is be a passive observer, or adopt the “love it or leave it” kind of philosophy, which is what some espouse in America. But I’m not sure that telling immigrants if they don’t like something, they should simply accept it. Being from San Francisco, I suppose I have a somehwat more acute sense of social awareness and perhaps that why it’s hard for me to see people – including my friends – harming themselves and polluting the city, and the atmosphere, without being affected by it.

      It’s also hard to understand the increase in smoking rates and the litter on the streets, whether or not they are by “accepted natives” or if they are instigated by some of the other people that live here. Paris is a pretty multicultural city and I consider anyone living here full-time a local. But perhaps that’s because I’m used to living in multicultural cities and I tend not to stratify societies, and think of us all as one cohesive mix – whether people live in the swanky 16th or the more rough-and-tumble areas of Barbès, to me, we’re all part of Paris.

      As for Paris, I write a lot about small businesses and some large ones, and spend a pretty good amount of time promoting them, sharing addresses for restaurants, wine bars, bakeries and chocolate shops, highlighting and promoting things like French cheese, butter, chocolate, charcuterie and honey, making videos in local businesses, highlighting outdoor markets, and so forth. But like any city, there is good and not-so-good in it and like anything, the flaws are often just as interesting to me as the good points.

      As I mentioned, if the locals (and visitors) want to smoke, that’s okay with me. But no matter who you are, it’s hard not to be affected by the cigarette butts on the street. And I agree wholeheartedly with the mayor of Paris that the problem needs to be resolved.

      (I will admit that I’m not sure what difference it makes if people have an accent or not. I have French friends..and Italian, Asian, Spanish and Mexican friends…who reside in the US and speak excellent English, who participate fiscally, politically and socially in everyday life, but have accents.)

      • We all read your blog because we love Paris. It would be wrong for you not to comment on things you notice and are concerned about. After all, you chose to live there as opposed to being born there and perhaps not knowing anywhere else. I’m glad you brought up the topic, it’s a pet bugbear of mine and in time I hope the French will understand the ramifications of the harm they are doing to their otherwise beautiful City (and themselves). Time for a new topic!

  • I think David is perfectly entitled to comment on Paris as he sees it and I wouldn’t consider it to be criticism at all. Even the native French are starting to realize they have a problem and unless people discuss issues nothing ever changes.

  • @David

    I am concerned about people’s tastebuds… saying you’re not concerned about it, is like saying you don’t care if someone is frigid. Obviously it doesn’t affect you personally, but this man or woman is deprived of one of the great joys of life.

    I care about people’s tastebuds ! (and I’m going to make a t-shirt that says so !)

  • I wonder how “not-smoking” is advertised or marketed in France. There has been some heavy-duty “non-smoking commercial advertising in the States for several years that I think has had an impact on smoking. Some of the commercials are heartbreaking at best and sickening at worst…

  • It’s TRASH…LITTER.. who cares if you smoke? That’s certainly a personal choice, which I have the right to disagree with. But butts on the street are just a blight on a beautiful city – isn’t there any civic pride anymore? Would the same people throw a candy or crisps wrapper on the ground?

  • It’s bad enough dodging smokers and their horrible second-hand smoke while walking to work in Paris or just strolling through my favorite park. To see all those cigarette butts on the street is downright disgusting. I do hope the mayor does something more than giving people fines for throwing their cig-butts on the street, park grounds, etc. After all, the French don’t give two figs about a fine and as you said, who’s going to give out these fines?

  • Hiya David,
    I do love Paris , do hate the butts.. can’t imagine the “Gallic shrug” which I have been given alot in my visits; with out the smoldering cigarette …

  • I wonder if Parisians toss their butts on the ground (and dog owners let their pets poop on the sidewalk) because the streets and sidewalks are cleaned so frequently?

    Those little green trucks hosing the sidewalks and the guys the green plastic brooms sweeping the gutters are on my block in the 11th at least twice a week.

    Of course, all those butts (and poop) are probably going straight into the Seine, so that’s not good. But maybe people think because it’s going to be cleaned anyway, it’s not a problem. Like the waiters who won’t bring an ashtray and tell you to toss them “par terre”.

    I’m constantly amazed that one hour after the marché at Bastille closes on Sunday afternoon, there’s not a shred of evidence of the hundreds of people who’d been there all morning. It positively sparkles … thanks to les petits hommes verts !

  • Unfortunately illness however horrible will not deter young smokers because they all think they are never going to die – hence young men being drafted into the forces. There is an incredible fact that people under, say 30, say “If I die” and people older say “when I die”. That is just a fact of life. However if you say to a young man that no young lady will want to kiss him because of the smoking smell on his breath, his hair, his body – that might have an effect. Similarly to young women if you tell them that their smell will put off any possible boy-friend. Also to look at older women who have been smokers all their lives and thus the “smokers” lines around the mouth. That should put off any young girl from starting the dirty and disfiguring habit.

  • David, thank you for your blog and for this article especially. I watch Telematin on TV5 each morning, and recently there was a report from London about the public service videos that the British are doing. There is one that shows a tumor growing out of a cigarette, and others that should be equally upsetting to smokers. I don’t watch much American television and don’t know if the smoking videos are still run, but I wish every cable channel as well as network had to run them every night. People who smoke flippantly say that they have to die anyway, so why not smoke? Their death is not just their affair,however; they leave behind the people who love them and mourn them.

    What is “Axe?”

  • David,
    I was in Paris last month and could NOT believe how many smokers and cig butts were everywhere. It was awful. My small children even noticed and commented on the “bad smokers.” I am an American who lives in London. It is also bad in London, but I must say Paris is much worse. Europeans, you have so much, so right, but this is so wrong! I hope something can be done…but I agree with you…the answers are hard indeed.

  • I think this was an extremely thoughtful post. My mother has been a long time smoker and it drives me crazy. She smokes outside (my house, car and when she’s required to by law of course) but it stays on her and well, she stinks. I don’t want to hang out at her house for this reason either. When travelling, it can be an annoyance to see her “fiend” and have to stop whatever’s going on for her to have her “nicotine”. I guess I’m just pointlessly ranting here, but I agree with you about the littering factor. And I wish my mother would quit.

  • David, thank you for this excellent post. I hope it will wake up at least one smoker to the dangers and unpleasantness of smoking. I could never convince my mother to quit smoking, and ever since I was a teenager I told her “Yes, but *I* will be the one who will have to take care of you when you’re dying of cancer.” So when I dropped my life and flew 500 miles to take care of her while she was dying of lung cancer, she said “I guess you can say I told you so.” My brother died of esophageal cancer as a result of his smoking. My parents-in-law died of cancer as a result of their smoking. These teenagers need to be shown how uncool and unattractive a death it is!

  • Wow, didn’t expect to feel nauseated on coming to visit your usually delectable website, but your post is still quite welcome and timely. As a pediatrician it’s all I can do to pray and counsel my patients not to smoke – and fortunately these days smoking is not as much an issue in the teens I treat – though they’ve got the gamut of problems going on. . I love visiting Europe but can’t stand the smoke – and how many places one would go where smoking simply is “what is.” I hope that Paris’s mayor succeeds in kicking butts as it were.

    And I’m fed up with European relatives and friends saying that certain things are “so American.” I once offered my earmuffs to a friend while we were walking outside in Europe and she was complaining about her cold ears. Her reply, “No, I don’t want your earmuffs, they’re so American.” Sheesh!

  • David, I’m no Francophile and I come to your blog for the food, but I accept that this is a blog about culture as much as food and I don’t mind the discussion about life in Paris at all.

    By the way, my impression in the US has been that smoking is much more accepted in the east than the west. In California people don’t just frown on you for smoking, but on the east coast it was no big deal, or “I can’t believe how we smokers get picked on” all the time.

    I believe I don’t bother smokers much. I don’t tell people to not smoke near me, I don’t tell my friends and relatives that they need to quit or they will die. I don’t avoid smokers on the street or give them dirty looks even though many nowadays apologize or put their cigs down when I talk to them. BUT I HATE THE BUTTS! My herb garden is not an ash tray! Every time I go out to snip some cilantro or chives or rosemary or whatever, I have to pick up butts (and also cheap cigar wrappers, but i think thats because the convenience store around the corner sells those).

    They don’t just toss their butts in public places like parks and city streets, they do it on my lawn and my walk and that is not ok. That goes for dog poo too. I don’t have a dog, I don’t smoke, I shouldn’t have to pick up dog poo or cigarette butts out of my strawberry patch.

    My wife stops what she is doing and thanks dog owners she sees cleaning up after their pets. Maybe we should thank those few who are responsible and don’t litter and think about those around them.

  • Maybe the electronic cigarette will become super popular (as it is in LA right now) and all that waste will go bye-bye.

    Thanks for sharing this story. Good to see the grimy side of Paris!

  • The Frenchies can use the extra cash they have in their pockets from all the freebies they get to buy their cigs.
    P.S. We are not far behind in the handouts here at this point

  • Wow. I guess we can add smoking to the list of things that must not be discussed in polite society … like sex, politics and religion.

    I’m a little surprised at the vitriol towards smoking in general … not just the bad manners of tossing butts on the street as David was pointing out.

    Remember, it’s still a legal product. Like Coca-Cola and KFC. They’re not much healthier either and possibly worse in the long run for the person consuming them.

    When tobacco become illegal, we can all share in the outrage. Until then …

    • “Like Coca-Cola and KFC. They’re not much healthier either and possibly worse in the long run for the person consuming them”. Well, they are pretty bad too but worse? I don’t think so.

  • Very interesting and obviously provocative post on the “not so sweet” side of life in Paris. Thank you David.

  • I think those numbers are soft. From high school to college, there were only maybe 4-5 people who weren’t smoking out of a group of 40 maybe. It’s been the same throughout my professional life. There’s largely more than 1/3 of people smoking in Paris. And about 70% of the smokers I know have been “trying” to quit for years.
    So in one word it comes down to willpower. They start when they are too young to know better and it’s “cool” (never really got what’s cool about doing what everyone else does) and then they just cannot stop because they’re addicted.
    I think the saddest thing is seeing people standing in hordes outside restaurants, in -3° weather because they just can’t eat without having at least 3 cigarette breaks during dinner. That should be enough to make them stop but no.
    At least now, the non smokers can eat without smoking and breathe in doors. My asthma says thank you.

  • Wow, your cigarette prices are even higher than in NY! The minimum is around $10 upstate and $12 in NYC per pack. (Over half of that is taxes.) At $160 for a carton, it’s amazing anyone still smokes. And I see people bumming cigarettes outside my office every day. Not only can they afford them, they can afford to give them away! Between the prices and the fact that you can no longer smoke in restaurants and bars in NY, or within 25 feet of a lot of buildings, a lot of people have given it up. Some of my friends were only able to quit when the bar ban went into effect – there would no longer be that temptation if they wanted to go out after they quit.

    The litter reminds me of your mention that people in NYC during your last trip were picking up trash. Maybe they’ve been scared straight knowing that Anderson Cooper went vigilante and stopped a lady from throwing a banana peel in the mailbox.

  • David for mayor!

  • Sorry, but it’s just scummy. I don’t care what age you are, what nationality, whether you smoke or not, but throwing cigarette butts like that is just scummy. Parisian chic, I guess…

  • According to wiki, cigarettes consumption per capita is higher in the US, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium or Germany than in France.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_cigarette_consumption_per_capita

    According to this other website, there are 27 % smokers in France, compared to 36 % in Austria, 33 % in Luxembourg or 29 % in the Netherlands.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_dai_smo-health-daily-smokers

    Still according to the Guardian, there more cigarettes smoked per person in the US, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Spain or Austria (twice more in the case of Austria, Switzerland, Spain) than in France.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/23/tobacco-industry-atlas-smoking

    It seems that the idea that everybody smokes in France is the mother of all false clichés (or simply something which evolved so dramatically in the last 30 years for many foreign tourists visiting France only once in a lifetime to take notice). Or are they more occasional smokers in France than in any other countries?

    But, crap toilets, dog scrap on the pavements, rude waiters in Paris (and friendly ones in the Province). I concur with all of that.

  • Interesting post and observations.

    I live in the Zurich area of Switzerland, and the smoking here in unbelievable. The rates are not that much higher here in Switzerland than elsewhere in the Western world (US, France, etc.), though I have not been able to figure out if they are particularly high in Zurich or not.

    The issue is second hand smoke. Smoking is permitted in all but a few zones (some bars and restaurants, trains, etc. A lot of bars still have smoking sections). For example, smoking is not allowed on the train, but it is allowed on the platform and inside parts of the station. So, people take a drag on their cigarette before boarding the train, and exhale on the train. Or light up in a crowded rush-hour stairwell. I definitely know that I’m inhaling more second hand smoke here than I was in N America.

    Given the known carcinogenic and other ill-health causing effects of second hand smoke, I really do think that public policy must more effectively balance the needs of smokers and of non-smokers.

    Cigarettes are still sold in vending machines here, there are billboard advertisements, advertisements in the movies during the previews, etc. It is not very culturally relativistic of me to say this, but honestly, it feels like going back in time.

    There is a small amount of momentum to ban smoking in more areas, thanks to it being framed as an occupational health issue for wait staff. I remember that having a big influence on the bans in Canada, so I’m hopeful that will gain some traction here.

    I haven’t noticed the litter here, but I’ll look now.

  • I just discovered your blog a few days ago, and since that, I spend a happy time on it, reading old posts and jumping from one link to another.
    I’m French and live in Paris the fourty first years of my life before moving to Germany, in a little town in the middle of nowhere, and later on to Morocco. Kind of a huge cultural gap each time :)

    As the years pass by, I recognize “my country” and “my city” changed so much that I’m not so much at home there. And the photos you show here just shocked me. It was not like that before, and it’s obviously the large ban on smoking in public places that triggers this uncivil behavior.

    When I compare to Morocco, where smoking is as widespread as drinking tea, no-smoking areas a kind of a wishful thinking and attention and care for common assets and city cleanliness just a strange concept, we don’t have such butt littered places. Because there are ashtrays everywhere…

    My husband is a smoker, and he always take care of throwing his butt in an appropriate place, ashtray, litter bin or, when we are in the car, a old plastic cup with a little bit of water, as we don’t want the “fragrance” of old cigarette to stay in our ashtray.

    I imagine the practical answer to that would be a bio – quickly degradable but, maybe in corn or whatsoever :)

  • Why so much?

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=France#Tobacco_industry_involvement_in_France

    And why is it a problem?

    Secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. This is not an American thing; secondhand smokesmoke does thenot same thingas to French heats and lungs that it does to American hearts and lungs.

  • I am 65 yrs old and I’m a smoker. I have been lucky enough that I have never required hospitalization or had any type of health issues unless it was having my children. No high blood pressure, no diabetes, etc. I work a full time job, in a stressful environment and have raised my 5 children as a single parent. By the end of the day having a cigarette and a glass of wine has kept me sane. I don’t lecture anybody on how to live their lives, I wish everybody would do the same. BUT it does pain me to see all those cigarette butts, littering such a beautiful city. It costs nothing to dispose of trash. That’s a no-no. My neighborthood is full of people who walk their dogs and don’t pick up their poop. I end up picking it because I have a couple of shrubs and trees that cute dogs favor, it seems.

    Mr. Lebovitz, thank you for the recipes. I especially like the Chubaka (my grandson called it that) Shakshuka recipe.

    • I’m not a fan of standing around smokers – and I wish people would quit. But I realize that that’s part of living in a society with a lot of different kinds of people. However I don’t understand why people can’t put their cigarette butts in the garbage. The photo that I took by the bicycles was in front of a building (I think it was a school) and there was a giant ashtray right next to the front door of the building, where everyone stands to smoke. I don’t know why people can’t walk a few feet and extinguish their cigarettes in there but I am now a fan of banning cigarette filters. If people want to smoke, that’s fine. But at least when they drop the ends on the streets and sidewalks, they will be less-harmful for the environment, and less a blight on the city.

  • Wow. I’m shocked and saddened by your post. Particularly by the photos which are appalling (but I’m sure could have been taken here in Australia too), but also that more people are smoking in Paris. I’ve been to Paris twice, and haven’t noticed the butts being so bad. We first went in 1998, and returned in 2010- I thought that there was much less smoking on the second trip, perhaps we just went to different places that trip? I hope that those images aren’t my memories of my next trip to Paris in June, but I do thank you for such an interesting, and unexpected post.

  • As someone who has never smoked & whose father died of coronary thrombosis at 42 years of age when I was 17 because of cigarettes, I was appalled to see the state of Paris’ streets on a trip with my 2 young kids last year. My kids (6 & 8) were disgusted. Asthma runs on both sides of our family & at 47 I started getting severe attacks, strong perfumes & cigarette smoke make me very ill.

    I find it annoying to say the least when smokers treat me like a pariah when I ask them to put it out, especially when we’re eating at out-door restaurants. To light up where others are still eating, then watch them heaving from the smoke irritating their lungs & continue to blow smoke their way goes beyond being selfish. At home I think we should all be allowed to do as we please, but in public we should all be aware of the people around us & have respect to understand parents not wanting their children breathing in 2nd hand smoke. We don’t live in a perfect world, but a little bit more consideration & less self-entered attitude would go a long way.

    What I also find bewildering is why are the Parisiens not proud enough of their city to keep it cleaner in the first place, they are making the place ugly & contributing to the stress of city life leaving oceans of cigarette butts for everyone to wade through…is there no shame, dignity or pride?

    • There is an unfortunate amount of littering in general, and not just cigarette butts. So the city of Paris has also just launched an ad campaign to get people to stop throwing trash on the street and put it in the garbage cans that are prevalent across the city.