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 =_________ !)


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

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  • shweta jani
    January 27, 2013 1:15pm

    How I wish, people all over the world would understand that those butts are an ugly decor for any city & it is also affecting a smoker’s health. When we say smoking is a part of our culture, I wonder who is to blame over here-the movies, books ? An apt written article. Strangely reminds me of a story by Stephen King-Quitters, Inc

  • January 27, 2013 1:20pm

    It was interesting to read a non food-related post on your site. You write well and what was seemingly a long post on a topic I would never have read an article on if it appeared somewhere else, caught my attention and made me think. To me, smoking and French tie together as a cool thing.

  • January 27, 2013 1:28pm

    David, when I took my pre-natal class in France, the woman leading it told us it used to be common practice in France for women to intentionally smoke throughout the pregnancy because it meant smaller babies, i.e. easier to give birth!

    As for the “American” side of non-smoking, I think that has to do with the perception that all Americans are health freaks who exercise excessively, refuse to eat tasty (but fatty) foods and follow the latest health fads. In fact, kind of how the rest of America sees Californians. ;)

  • Noelene
    January 27, 2013 1:53pm

    Here in Australia plain packaging for cigarettes has just been introduced. The packs are an ugly browny- green color with graphic photos of cigarette related health conditions. One woman I know says she has given up because of this and another says she hates the images of gangrene on the packs so is intending to quit. In fact the main aim is to discourage new ( young) smokers. Plain packaging has been a legal battle for the federal government but I am wholeheartedly in favor of anything that stymies “big tobacco” and saves lives.

  • wendy
    January 27, 2013 2:03pm

    all over the world, this is LITTERING plain and simple

  • Rebecca
    January 27, 2013 2:20pm

    I was just listening to a program on NPR about all the dog poop on the streets in Paris. It sounds like a minefield out there between the smoldering butts and the poop!

  • January 27, 2013 2:33pm
    David Lebovitz

    Meg: Aïe!

    Rebecca: Some of it depends on the neighborhoods. Swanky Left Bank areas tend to be cleaner, simply because not as many people live there as in the regular neighborhoods or maybe it’s there are more tourists staying there. (Or for whatever reason.) Usually schools and offices tend to have a large amount of cigarette butts in front of them because of the students and office workers. Curiously, the school where I took the 1st picture had a big (hardly used) ashtray right out there, next to their front door, as well.

    Noelene: Someone told me they were initiating that in March, along with a rise in prices of cigarettes, but I wasn’t able to find that information anywhere. I did read that taking the logo of cigarettes doesn’t really decrease the number of smokers, and something perhaps specific to the French is that the more you push people to do something, the more likely they will react in the opposite.

    There is talk that the number of people who smoke in France increased since the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants – some say it’s because people find it more convivial to be huddled outside together, others say it adds a “cool” (or being an “individualist”) factor, that you need to interrupt a meal or event to go outside and smoke. I saw a whole table get up from their table at a restaurant a few weeks ago, just when the waiter came to put down their main courses.

  • January 27, 2013 2:36pm

    The butts part is tough, as I remember being accosted for littering by a random stranger in California as a mid 20’s smoker and being completely nonplussed. He was right of course, but I was all “No I didn’t” and felt righteous at the time.

    Ultimately I think you just have to make smoking less socially acceptable by banning it in more places. I was a smoker who went through the bans in Boston, and it made me realize how many of my friends hated going out because it meant they would smell like smoke afterwords. It’s not like that makes you quit immediately, but it does make you more aware. Smoking outside ultimately isn’t so bad because you can hit on the other people relegated to the smoking camps.

    But still. Awareness that there are people who don’t like smoking can only come from society/laws. You could argue that US smoking bans led me to finally quit. I would argue that it was a cold that wouldn’t quit because of the cigarettes, but maybe we are both right.

    • January 27, 2013 2:49pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t mind if people smoke, but am just surprised and sad by the large number of teenagers who chain-smoke. And I can’t believe people look down at the street that looks like one of those I took a picture of, and toss another butt on the pile. Simiarly, I don’t mind if people drink Coke and eat at McDonald’s, but they throw the trash in the garbage. (Well, they should – although that doesn’t always happen, either.)

      A number of people here say they would like to quit. And Parisians complain about the trash and cigarette butts in the street vociferously, even the smokers. The NYT article I linked to addressed the attitudes that are prevalent.

  • January 27, 2013 2:43pm

    I wonder to what extent increasing prices will solve the issue. This may encourage more contraband? Brands (Coca Cola, McD’s etc) become popular because of smart marketing. Factors like pricing is perhaps less important. I wonder if smart marketing/PR rather than price hikes will be more effective in addressing this smoking issue.

  • J
    January 27, 2013 3:03pm

    Is this a uniquely Parisian problem – the littering of cigarette butts – or does the problem extend to other French metropolitan areas?

  • January 27, 2013 3:09pm

    I agree with J.W. Hamner in that the most effective way of discouraging smoking is to make it harder to smoke in public. I am an Australian living in London and one thing I have noticed is people in Europe (and Asia too I’ve noticed) smoke a lot more than Australians in general.

    I am from Brisbane and about 10 years ago they started introducing smoking laws, at first it was you can’t smoke within 4 metres of the entrance to any public building and then that lead to no smoking anywhere where they serve food or drink. This meant bars had to create special smoking areas for smokers, but you can’t take you drink with you. These areas are usually out the back near the loading area or garbage bins as there is just no other space.

    As a result of these laws people smoke less, a lot of my friends have given up smoking as a result because it is inconvenient and your friends don’t want to go stand next to a bin with you while you smoke and leave their drinks behind. As a non-smoker it means I don’t suffer the affects of second hand smoke as much and that look a long time for me to adjust to again after moving to London.

  • January 27, 2013 3:12pm

    My mother died from lung cancer and my grandmother spent the last 20 or so years of her life shackled to an oxygen machine. I hate the argument that “something is going to kill all of us,” because,as you point out, the insidious thing about smoking is that it destroys the quality of one’s life, even when it doesn’t kill. There is nothing cool about having your mobility restricted while you are still relatively young.

    Unlike other bad health behaviors, a person’s decision to smoke directly affects the health of other people in the form of second-hand smoke.

    It also annoys me when people say: “well X smoked and was FINE.” Bad health behaviors do not affect every person equally, it is true, just like some people can eat fast food and candy and seem to suffer no ill health consequences. Health policy and laws, however, must be designed to promote the welfare of the entire population, and on the whole, most people’s states of health will be severely compromised even by social smoking and second hand smoke.

  • Sissy
    January 27, 2013 3:12pm

    I smoked off and on for a number of years but quit for good over 20 years ago after my uncle died of lung cancer(he was a heavy smoker).

    If France does switch to plain packaging I hope they do something similar to the brown graphic look that Australia is doing. From a designers point of view I believe the plain white pack will look just look chic and desirable.

  • January 27, 2013 3:23pm

    Your comments about perfume are cute but the comparisons are inappropriate. According to the World Health Organization:

    Second-hand smoke causes 600 000 premature deaths per year.

    In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.

    The trash is gross but pales in comparison to the health effects.

  • Shaney
    January 27, 2013 3:46pm Terracycle will now recycle cigarette butts in the United States. Perhaps if the city and Terracycle team up, money can be raised to support a cause important in the area.. They pay $2/lb in US, which although not a lot, is a small contribution to motivate people to keep the streets clean of cigarette butts. Worth a shot

  • Claire
    January 27, 2013 3:48pm

    I thought that not smoking was an Australian thing as I remember the bans starting there earlier than in America. Although NYC brought in the office ban soon after Australia in 1988. Whilst Axe and perfumes can be beyond horrible – they are not going to kill you. Smoking needs to be banned in public spaces as just a small amount of cigarette smoke, as in working in a smoky room, causes some cancers.

  • January 27, 2013 3:49pm

    I agree with you David. Few years back I went London for vacation and I was surprised to see cigarette butts everywhere spoiling such a beautiful city. I hope people start changing their habit by at least making sure they just don’t throw them anywhere.

  • January 27, 2013 3:57pm

    I remember a few years ago when the indoor-smoking ban was first enforced. It was fascinating to go past some restaurants and finally be able to see through the windows to the inside, instead of the blue haze of smoke. Some cafes actually installed frosted glass in their windows to replace the veil of privacy!

    Anyway, especially since then (was it 2008?) there has naturally been a proliferation of megots on the streets.

    • January 27, 2013 4:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the smoking ban in restaurants caused people to go outside and smoke, then drop their cigarette butts out there. Some restaurants and bars have ashtrays by their front doors, but a lot of people simply don’t use them. Another (big) problem the smoking ban has caused is a noise issue and people that live nears bars and restaurants have had problems because people are outside talking boisterously until 3am+. Most bars have signs outside requesting that people keep their voices down (one more than one I’ve seen also asks people not to urinate outside as well) but I think most of them generally are ignored.

  • Rachel
    January 27, 2013 4:44pm

    Canada started its campaign against smoking about two decades ago, which has included increased cigarette prices (~$13 these days), warnings and photos on packs, quitting programs, anti-smoking ads and the banning of tobacco ads. Smoking rates have been dropping steadily. I imagine you’ll see the same in France.

    Tim Horton’s was actually one of the first coffee shops to go non-smoking, and I can remember everyone thinking that it would tank them. Instead, after a small blip, everyone realised that they were the only coffee shop selling muffins that didn’t taste like smoke, and their business skyrocketted.

    • January 27, 2013 4:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      When they instituted the smoking ban in France, a lot of café owners were concerned about a loss of business. One thing, though, is the smokers were forced to sit outside, where the coffee and other drink prices costs 2x as much as inside at the bar. So in the winter, when few want to sit outside, smokers sit in those seats that preveiously were unoccupied. However a number of cafés have installed outdoor heaters and large sheets of plastic to hold in the heat, and the city had strongly considered banning the heaters for environmental reasons, but they reconsidered that. It’s interesting how many concessions there have been made regarding smoking in France. When I was in Italy a few years ago and said to a local that I was surprised at how it seemed there were a lot less people smoking, they said – “When they banned cigarettes in restaurants and bars, most people just decided to quit.” That was an interesting assessment, and interesting that the numbers have actually increased in France.

  • naomi
    January 27, 2013 5:08pm

    I lost both parents to lung cancer, in their 60’s. My grandparents, non-smokers, lived into their 90’s and 100’s. My siblings and I would visit my mom in the hospital, come outside and they’d said, “God! That was rough!” and light up.

    We all think we’re immortal, and want to test it for some odd reason. I’ve come too close three times; I need no more experiences like that. Unfortunately, tobacco is one of the most addictive substances in the world, even worse than alcohol, cocaine, heroin. It is a problem that must be addressed before children start smoking – and most are teenagers when they start. How many people do you know who started in their twenties?

    Of course, I live in a city known for debauchery and that does include smoking. One can still go into bars and smoke here, as long as no food – or not much – is served. I cough, some of my smoking friends accuse me of over-reacting, I leave. And, as required by a doctor, I get chest x-rays every two years.

    Thanks for the attempt.

  • Chloe
    January 27, 2013 5:14pm

    I live in Germany and I’m always so surprised when I visit Paris. It seems like everybody smokes. In Frankfurt, and in Germany in general, smoking is becoming increasingly NOT COOL. Even students don’t smoke (also because cigarettes are so expensive here, especially if you consider that the Germans don’t earn that much in comparison with the rest of the euro-countries). In my office building (500+ people work there) there are maybe 6-7 people who regularly meet for smoke breaks (I know because my co-worker is one of them). Germans are generally more health oriented than the French, with their weird love for organic food and cosmetics, but I still can’t help but wonder how two neighbouring can be so different from each other.

  • Amanda
    January 27, 2013 5:35pm

    I applauded a man who stubbed his cigarette on the first ashtray I have seen attached to a rubbish bin in a Marais street yesterday.

  • Vicki B
    January 27, 2013 5:39pm

    The mayor could always impose a tax and hire unemployed youths to sweep them up if the public do not wish to change their ways.

  • Catherine
    January 27, 2013 5:43pm

    I was horrified by the number of female smokers here in Paris who have told me that their doctor told them to continue smoking during pregnancy (“Because it would have been trop traumatique for the baby to stop”).

    On the smoking/giving up debate, I always think of Bill Hicks’ routine from the 90s: And yes, he did die of cancer…

  • Susan
    January 27, 2013 5:46pm

    I remember when smoking was first being banned in offices in the SF Bay area of CA. It was instituted by the rule that when a non smoking employee requested that the office be smoke free, nobody could smoke in that office. I was a smoker at the time and resented it greatly. We could only smoke outside when on break, which was designated as 10 am, noon and 3 pm. One Saturday when I had to work, only one other smoker was present, so we decided we would “light up” at our desk. We didn’t realize how accustomed we’d become to the smoke free office and immediately scrunched our noses up at the odor and took out smokes outside! I would never have thought that I would find my own smoking offensive to myself ! I’m glad the smoking ban was instituted as gradually as it was. I think it helped ease me (and probably many others) into quitting by reprograming the way I expected a given environment to smell as well as being made to accustom myself to not being allowed to smoke in certain situations. It’s almost the same proceedure the cancer association advises one to quit smoking!

    • January 27, 2013 5:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      Some of the no-smoking laws were implemented not to get people to quit, but not to endanger the health of people working in offices, restaurants, etc. (Hence some place were/are able to get around bans if they don’t have employees; if only the owner works there.) When I worked in a restaurant that had a smoking and a non-smoking section, even the waiters and waitresses who smoked didn’t want to work in the smoking section and eventually the restaurant just went non-smoking, which made it easier to seat the dining room since the host could sit anyone anywhere.

  • January 27, 2013 5:48pm

    We were just in Paris in September and it was disgusting the amount of butts lying on the ground. Common sense should prevail as its not necessarily the smoke that harms you, it’s all the chemicals which the growers use. One way to try and curb the use is to make filters illegal. This would stop the pollution thing caused by them and possibly deter some users. Anything to stop this problem would defiantly help. Thanks David.

  • moyenage
    January 27, 2013 5:51pm

    My husband and I took our 8-year-old granddaughter for her first trip to Paris last summer. She had a magical trip, but one thing she was (quite volubly) shocked by was the number of people smoking! She’s from California, where less than 12% of the population smokes.

  • January 27, 2013 5:52pm

    Funny, I’ve heard those same to arguments from my French colleagues! I once read a report that said that even when the price of a pack goes up, smokers justify the expense by saying it’s their little luxury and they’re just as likely to spend that amount on junk food or alcohol. I just wonder what it will really take for them to stop or at least clean up their act when they refuse to admit that they’re harming those around them.

  • kay
    January 27, 2013 5:54pm

    I think that there should be a tax and I think that people caught littering or not picking up their dogs poop or whatever should be given a choice of doing the cleanup or have to pay a VERY HEFTY fine. The fine being far more than the community service.

  • Jane Borton
    January 27, 2013 5:54pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write about this topic. My mom died this week from smoking related illness at age 70 and everyone who knew her is devastated.

  • Meryl
    January 27, 2013 5:55pm

    I feel very lucky that the two cigarettes I smoked at 11 did not impress me and I’ve not had the urge to try tobacco since.
    OTOH, while Axe for Men does not kill it may inspire others to violence. We had a house guest who used heavily and it took weeks for the memory of his visit to fade from the house. And this was in the summer when we have some windows open all the time.

  • January 27, 2013 5:57pm

    wow, I didn’t know it took a cigarette butt 12 years to decompose. Another reason I should try to quit again. That being said, on my university campus, the sidewalks and surrounding areas outside the buildings are very much the same as the Paris streets. Even as a smoker I find it disgusting and always use the ash trays or trash cans provided.

    I don’t know what they think changing to plain white packaging is going to do… I know I wouldn’t stop, but if they raise the price again – that would definitely get me more motivated to quit.

    Thanks for this post, it was an interesting read and nice to hear another’s opinion and impressions on the subject.

  • January 27, 2013 6:01pm

    This was such an enjoyable read! As a French prof (and former French major who thought that Stuyvesants rouges were the epitome of cool) I’ve lived and worked in France on and off for the past 25 years and have watched with interest the love affair between the French and their cigarettes. The thing that most shocked me was watching French people EAT AND SMOKE AT THE SAME TIME. That is truly. Wow. I can’t even…

  • Linda H
    January 27, 2013 6:03pm

    The withdrawal jitters I saw the Italian smokers experience on a flight from Rome to Chicago was almost funny, except that they did go smoke in the bathrooms on the plane. The irate flight attendant told everyone that the bathrooms are right next to the oxygen supplies on the plane, and are the single most dangerous place of all to start a fire.

  • January 27, 2013 6:03pm

    The cigarette butts drive me crazy too! I live in the South of France and people throw their used butts all over the beaches rather than walk 2 metres to the conviently placed trashbins. You can’t make a sandcastle with the kids, or sit down on the sand, without having to scrape aside the disgusting butts! They have instigated a no smoking ban on some of the beaches during the Summer down here to try to counteract it, but the law is not enforced, so everyone does it anyway. C’est vraiment degoutant!!!!

  • January 27, 2013 6:04pm

    I live in Ottawa Canada where we have the same problem downtown. We have littering laws and heavy fines for doing so. If you threw your sandwich wrapper or coffee cup on the ground or out of your car window, you would be fined. Throwing a cigarette butt which is a hazard to wildlife, pets and children, not to mention disgusting to look at, is not considered littering for some reason. Not sure why this is. Spring in Canada’s capital is a sea of dog waste and cigarette butts, which mar an otherwise clean and beautiful city.

  • January 27, 2013 6:04pm

    The smoking thing is one thing, and after spending a couple weeks across the Atlantic, it’s always a big surprise to encounter so many smokers.

    The thing that really kills me is the littering. And it’s not just cigarette buts. Add those little metro tickets in and it’s hello job security for the good people who clean the streets. It’s certainly not for a lack of garbage bins either.

    The other thing is the amount of money it costs to smoke. I know people who complain about not having enough money and being unable to travel and yet they spend a good chunk of their money on smokes.

  • January 27, 2013 6:05pm

    We had an exchange student from Paris and prior to traveling he had to sign a no smoking agreement. He told us he does smoke and that most kids do because the youth think they are invincible. He said kids quit when they are older. Being nurses, we couldn’t help but mention the health effects of smoking, but I don’t know if he really heard that. We’ll see this summer when we visit.

  • January 27, 2013 6:05pm

    Don’t they have those green motorbikes that go around and pick up dog poop in Paris? Couldn’t they also pick up the mégots? It’s a vacuum I think they have on the back of the bike, easy to aspirate the mégots.


  • January 27, 2013 6:05pm
    David Lebovitz

    Lindsey: I don’t know what would get people to quit here, because as you know, there is culture of difiance. However it’s really the massive amount of cigarettes on the ground that continue to startle me. I know there isn’t a focus necessarily on doing an l’acte civique but it’d be nice it people simply used the ashtrays provided to clean up the streets and sidewalks.

    Meryl: Lol!

    kay: A French friends was saying how bad all the metal poles were in the city, to prevent people from parking on the sidewalks. And she suggested a hefty fine instead of having erected metal poles on all the sidewalks. But someone else said it’s not hard to get out of paying a fine, which I don’t really know that much about. (I know in San Francisco when they made the fine for parking in a bus stop or red zone astronomically high, people stopped parking in them immediately.)

    Jane: Sorry to hear about your mother. It’s not a pleasant thing to go through for anyone, which is putting it mildly.

    Mark: I read something that said the filters do very little, except to make people think that smoking a cigarette is somehow safer. (I’ve also read the chemicals in the filters aren’t all that good to inhale either..) But you’re right, I think just getting rid of cigarette filters would clean up the pollution a lot. I know a number of people in France roll their own cigarettes as the price of cigarettes keeps increasing. Some put filters in them, but others don’t.

  • Maureen
    January 27, 2013 6:05pm

    We’ve travelled to Paris quite a few times in the past ten years. Obviously since you have the photos, there are cigarette butts on the streets, but I must admit, I didn’t notice them. We were not just in one neighbourhood either. I’ve found since we first started travelling to France that smoking is not as noticeable so strange it’s on the increase. You don’t see it in trains, the metro, restaurants or stores like you used to. There is far less dog poop too. So folks, it’s really not that bad, lol. We were also there in September and apart from a few office workers standing outside on their break, it went unnoticed by us. By the way, my dad smoked himself to death, so I hate it and tend to notice it.

  • Susan
    January 27, 2013 6:07pm

    David, I hadn’t thought about this until now, but I remember seeing people snuff out their cigarettes right on their plates after dinner at restaurants. It was so disgusting!, Even as a smoker, I would never have done that! I was also not one to throw a cigarette butt on a sidewalk. I snuffed it out and hung on to it until I could throw it in the garbage can. Most of the smokers I knew did the same.

  • January 27, 2013 6:08pm

    One of the worst trash I don’t like to see are cigarette butts. It drives me crazy everytime I saw cigar butts on the road when there is a trash can just a few feet away. It’s disgusting!

  • JOS
    January 27, 2013 6:23pm

    I lived in France for 17 years, and the reason people smoke is simple: the government owns, literally, the tobacco companies, and there is a huge conflict of interest between the revenue from smokers and the education that must come from the government. Period. There is no government sponsored program to stop. The mayor can chatter, but nothing will be done until the minister of something or other says so! JOS

  • Colette
    January 27, 2013 6:29pm

    BRAVO DAVID – thank you for your commentary on smoking in Paris. In Maryland, where I live, the legislature has increased taxes on cigarettes several times and I hope a new tax will be added this spring. This approach has decreased sales – they are just too expensive for many people, especially students, to buy.


  • KansasKate
    January 27, 2013 6:33pm

    It seems strange that so many people in a country known for glamourous coiffures, beautiful couture and delicious cuisine don’t mind if their hair and clothing stink of tobacco or if smokes ruins their sense of taste. Bizarre.

    While smoking bans in the US don’t seem to have caused an increase in smoking, as happens everywhere, they have lead to people congregating outside to smoke. I absolutely HATE that. If I don’t want to sit in a smoke-filled bar or restaurant, I certainly don’t want to walk through a high concentration of smoke to get in the door. Nor do I want to walk through, round or over a pile of smelly cigarette butts, and it does seem as though more butts end up on the sidewalks now, even when there are receptacles for them. Bad manners? Laziness? Spite? Who knows why.

    This makes me wonder about trash in Paris in general. When I spent a summer in Paris –1980– I don’t remember the streets being particularly trashy. (In fact, Paris looked much better than NYC had in the 1970s.) However, when I returned in March 1997, there was trash everywhere. The little trash bins which seemed to be on almost every light post along the sidewalks were all locked shut. I asked a couple of taxi drivers about it, and they said it was so no one could put bombs in them. At the time, it sort of made sense — 1995 & 1996 were years of many successful attacks and foiled plots in Europe, included the Dec ’96 bombing in Paris. What’s the situation now?

  • Jessica
    January 27, 2013 6:37pm

    I can’t for the life of me understand why people can’t seek out a trash can, or use an ashtray. But then I’m the kind of person who’ll carry a wrapper (or whatever) with me until I find a trash can. In Helsinki they had “talking trash-cans on year. Whenever you put a piece of trash into it, it would say something like thanks. People, especially children, were running around to find trash.
    Smoking is on a decline where I live. There’s an age limit, the price of a pack of ciggarettes is high, around 50 sek (6 euro). As for smoking cessation, nicotine has been shown to be about as addictive as heroin so quitting is easier said than done. Some quit easy, others not.

  • Jessica
    January 27, 2013 6:39pm

    They’ve also prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants.

  • John A Talbott
    January 27, 2013 6:42pm

    Good pix and point.
    But part of the ugliness is because folks can no longer smoke in bldgs, they smoke outside and toss their butts in the street.

  • January 27, 2013 6:43pm

    I remember being profoundly shocked not just by how many people smoked, but how casually they just flipped the butts into the gutter when we first moved to Europe from Australia 16 years ago. It was like they didn’t recognise the butts as litter.

    BTW, I wouldn’t be so sure that Axe won’t kill you. Many of the ingredients of even high quality perfumes are known carcinogens, and there are certainly health concerns about the cheap supermarket room freshener scents when used excessively (like one or more in every room of the house, which happens — yuk!)

  • Leslie Freeman
    January 27, 2013 6:44pm

    As a frequent Paris visitor over 20 years it appeared to me that the city government cleaned up after everyone. The sucked up the dog droppings, hosed down and scrubbed streets, swept litter, etc. The population behaved as this was part of life and those people would clean up after them. There may be less of those workers now with budget cuts so more butts etc end up left on the streets. Personal responsibility is sadly lacking, and not just in Paris.

  • Rafter^B
    January 27, 2013 6:52pm

    Thank you for not smoking. We would like to keep you around for a while.

  • Leila
    January 27, 2013 6:53pm

    Watch a loved one die from COPD, better yet be a primary caregiver and smoking loses all appeal.

  • January 27, 2013 6:54pm

    Unless you’re deleting opposition, no respondent to your post pins to the real problem which is not smoking. It’s the assault on personal choice. And if this is acceptable, then watch out. Suppose chocolate got the same press as tobacco, and it’s likely to happen. Sugar. And honey. Causing obesity, heart disease, adding to nationalized health care costs, people don’t have good judgement on their own and need to have decisions made for them… After all, 50 years ago smoking was considered good for you and oh but the worm can turn. The list grows and one day it’s going to include something you don’t want to live without. Big tobacco gets a fraction of the price on a pack, it’s 80% tax. And we’ve seen how careful every government is with taxpayer money.
    What the French apparently refuse is to levy a fine on shops who don’t sweep.
    If we say it’s okay to penalize the free choices of one part of the population, then the extensions are increasingly easy. Beware of knowing what’s best for others. Far more harmful impulse than lighting a cigarette.

  • elizabeth
    January 27, 2013 7:09pm

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention second hand smoke as an issue. I despise the smell of cigarettes and actively flee if I smell anyone smoking around me. The smell embeds itself in my hair and clothes for the rest of the day. Granted I live in Los Angeles and smoking is just not as prevalent (where I hang out at least), but the “death” factor and stigma that goes with it is like a big scarlet “shame on you” for those smokers that hang out alone outside office buildings. Second hand smoke kills too.

  • January 27, 2013 7:12pm

    I do totally agree with what you write, David.
    Those pictures are shocking, but they are true. I live in Toulon, where there is beaches. People put their cigarettes in the sand !
    Some people tried to distribute small free boxes, to smokers. This way they could put their ended cigarettes in it. No … They prefer in the sand ! I let you imagine when children play with sand …
    And I really don’t know why we smoke so much. On the other hand, you’re teaching me something. Because, for example, around me, a lot of people have stop smoking. In my own family, I stopped, my both parents stopped (my father uses to smoke cigar and my mother Gitanes), my uncles and aunts stopped, one of my 3 sisters stopped…etc …
    I had the feeling that people were beginning to understand and to stop smoking.
    As my children didn’t watch me to smoke, as my husband doesn’t smoke, as we talk to them about what smoke can do, I just hope my children will be clever than me…
    And you’re right, when I stopped smoking, my biggest scare was to become fatter. And it happened … Not in a terrific way, but it happens.
    In Paris, where the “image” is so important, this is maybe the superficial reason why …

  • January 27, 2013 7:17pm

    I haven’t read any results yet on the changes to cigarette packaging here in Australia yet but I can’t help but feel they will have some positive impact. Beyond there being none of the branding that people can become attached to, each packet is covered with a large image of some horrific cigarette related illness. The photos are large, graphic and very disturbing. Walking into a tobacconist is akin to watching a horror movie. The big tabacco companies fought the legislation tooth and nail. If they weren’t worried they wouldn’t have fought so hard. Of course they tried to couch it as some attack on civil liberties. It’ll certainly be interesting to see the impact it has on smoking in Australia!

  • Astrid
    January 27, 2013 7:26pm

    Seeing those pictures reminded me of my Army days 20+ years ago. “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” was fading out and it had been years since the Army put free cigaretts in the K-rations (MRE’s by the mid-80’s), however there were enough butts around for a hardy “Police Call” (picking up the ends) by us non-smokers! DC went smoke-free in bars/restaurants in 2007 – it’s was the best thing ever. You didn’t realize how bad your clothes or hair smelled after a night on the town until it was no longer an issue.

  • Michael
    January 27, 2013 7:26pm

    Great column. Photos twice as effective since we’re used to seeing beautiful shots of food prep at all stages. It’s gratifying that you take such a broad view in your reporting on Parisian culture.

  • January 27, 2013 7:28pm

    It’s funny when you are not around smoking how odd it is to see scenes like this. I am in Boulder Colorado (U.S.), where I see senior citizens performing triathlons faster than I could run in my 20’s. Smoking is banned in eateries and I rarely see anyone doing it anywhere. Last weekend I was in San Francisco, and could not get over the abundance of smoking. To the point that I felt physically ill from the smoke on a few occasions. I had lived there about 10 years ago and do not remember so many smokers. It’s a habit I frankly don’t understand and with all the drawbacks seems there must be better ways to address the ‘need’ to smoke. Very interesting post David.

  • January 27, 2013 7:38pm

    highly interesting theme and highly disgusting photos (for once) – I had just yesterday this absurd discussion with my pretty, slim, willowy hairdresser; when she said that she is still suffering from cough and health issues because she stayed outside with her pals on New Year’s Night because they had to smoke outside. And when I said ‘but you are smoking practically no longer’ she added: Yeah, I didn’t but I just didn’t wanna miss all the fun we have in our ‘pack’ and of course I caught my frozen lungs and cough then (wearing next to nothing on her hot skin from partying inside).
    I can’t even comment because I am a dedicated non-smoker but I also have managed to overlook the ugly ciggie buts in the streets to a great extent.
    On Friday, I saw a couple of guys running from college to catch the bus, and one hadn’t even time to throw away his fag so he just cupped it into his hand and he entered the bus like that…. wondered how he got away with it. I know one thing: You can’t teach the French anything they don’t want to do – so good luck and healthy nerves to those who will have to enforce any law re no ciggie littering!
    And I am shocked to read in the comments about women who don’t quit smoking when pregnant so that their babies stay small… it makes me want to cry.

    (David; if this appears twice, I do apologize, my computer just played up for a moment)

  • Rebecca
    January 27, 2013 7:40pm

    With the French mindset as you have described, it sounds like change will not happen through governmental pressure. Concerned denizens such as yourself will need to facilitate change through social pressure. Increasing awareness is one avenue, but I think that public shaming can be an effective tool as well. People might be less inclined to throw their cigarette butts on the ground if someone calls them out on it whenever they see it happening.

    I believe strongly in an individual’s right to choose whether or not to smoke – as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. Littering is just disrespectful of the city and the people living in it; we are all capable of cleaning up after ourselves and should be expected to do so. People will behave however they are allowed to behave (along social mores as well as government-imposed laws), so if you want a behavior to change you have to make it socially unacceptable and enact consequences for violating expectations.

  • January 27, 2013 7:42pm

    Good subject, and I am so sorry you are buried in cigarette butts, David! Out yesterday afternoon in Lyon, I saw a shop dedicated to the new “cigarette electronique” and it was completely packed with people, in fact there were so many people in there that I also considered going in and I’m not even a smoker! Also had you listened to the news lately that the new surtax being slapped on cigarettes meant to curb smokers’ consumption was loudly protested by the buralistes who were outraged and claimed that the tax and its intended effect was going to put them out of business!

  • Sue
    January 27, 2013 7:54pm

    Bottom line:
    1. Smoking is a disgusting habit.
    2. Smoking affects more than the smoker – oftentimes partners are affected more than the actual smoker.
    3. If you want to lose weight, do it in a more healthy way.
    4. There is NOTHING cool about smoking! Your teeth & fingers get stained, your breath stinks, & your clothes & home never smell clean.
    5. An interesting post, but it still amazes me that the French people continue this awful habit

  • EM
    January 27, 2013 7:57pm

    At least smoking isn’t so prevelent in enclosed public places in France. I live in Austria which has to be the EU’s smoker’s paradise. It supposedly became better a few years ago but the new regulations are an absolute joke as they often aren’t enforced. Also they don’t seem to understand that without physical barriers smoke travels– for example, an open smoking room onto a non-smoking room doesn’t keep the smoke on the smoking side (It’s like having a peeing section in a swimming pool!) or the WCs are located in the smoking section so you smell like an ashtray if you want to go and wash your hands before dinner or something.

    When I was in France last summer I seem to recall that restaurants are all now smoke-free. Is this correct– or was I just lucky to not encounter smoke?

    Personally here I think they should get the parking sheriffs to enforce the smoking laws and doggie doo laws (it is supposed to be a 36 EUR fine for disposing of both on the sidewalks/lawns, etc.– since the parking sheriffs are so efficient at writing up parking tickets I think they could easily catch these cigarette butt flingers in the act!)

  • January 27, 2013 7:59pm

    Smoking, as other demons (i.e. addictions) inside a person, makes one mean, hence the littering that seems quite natural and expected (not from everyone, of course, there are some exceptions as with every rule :).
    My husband, a heavy smoker, doesn’t litter in public, but I find cigarette buts here and there around our house. This drives me crazy! He cannot explain it either – it goes on automatic.
    As for the toxicity of smoking, I agree with the other reviewer that it’s not the smoke that kills but the added chemicals in tobacco. Smoking some medicinal plants is said to cure many diseases, including cancer. These methods are now all but forgotten, crowded out by Big Pharma. I consider putting my husband on organic tobacco my personal victory last year: he buys American organic tobacco in bulk and rolls his own cigarettes with the help of a special machine. His morning cough is less and he actually smokes less, and the money spent is less!
    What I do not understand about smokers is that it’s another dependency that makes you a slave of your habit. Don’t we have enough dependencies already living in this time of progress? We are like helpless flies in the web, where the technological society of today is a horrendous spider that sucks our energy out.

  • Sarahb1313
    January 27, 2013 8:03pm

    Smoking a cigarette or two on occasion is akin to drinking on occasion. Who cares. But a smoker rarely smokes like that. The vast majority of smokers are “abusers”, addicted. Free will just an illusion.

    It’s just foolish. And I don’t want to smell your smoke. Nor am I into smelling your heavy perfume. Or heavy body odor. The former 2 make me wheeze, the latter is just yucky. And I don’t want to have to see your garbage in the streets that my tax dollars will pay to clean. Is he government coming to my house to clean?

    Don’t you see? The more cigarettes are taxed, the lower the incentive for government to decrease usage…. they lose revenue! I’ll stop there- you do the math and follow the train of logic.

  • January 27, 2013 8:10pm

    1) The French youth-who-smoke percentages have to be low. When I was studying in Tours, every kid smoked, except a handful.

    2) What is a smoker? I was traveling with a group of French hikers in Russia a few years ago. One of my fellow trekkers insisted he was not a “fumeur,” even as he lit up cigarette after cigarette. Maybe he only smoked on vacation?

    3) It’s true that in the States we still have many smokers, but it’s also true that it is déclassé. I think I can count on two hands the number smokers I know personally, and my image of the rest usually centers on the uneducated and the poor. Anybody who could quit has already quit, and many of the rest are desperately trying.

  • Kristi
    January 27, 2013 8:15pm

    Perhaps it is a conspiracy to save the debt-ridden health care system some money?

    By some measures, smokers (and the obese) actually save the health care system money because they die sooner, thus avoiding costly dementia-related cares in the last decade of life.

  • Clare
    January 27, 2013 8:16pm

    Agree with what some others have said about the link between this and littering in general. Having grown up in Australia with its anti-litter ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ campaign I just cannot bring myself to throw something in the street. I wonder in Paris if it’s partly due to all the street-cleaning – people just think throwing something in the gutter is the same as throwing it in the bin, as the balayeurs will be along before long to whisk it away. I’m sure this is totally passive aggressive of me, but when I see someone in front of me throw a piece of litter on the street I pick it up and run after them, saying ‘excuse me, I think you dropped something’. First time I did it in Paris was so funny – the look of utter incomprehension on the person’s face, not knowing whether to thank me (as would be required by ‘la politesse’) or swear at me for being so cheeky…

  • MaryA
    January 27, 2013 8:29pm

    There’s not much left to be said about this subject, but I’d just like to add my two cents about how horrible a death from lung cancer is. I never want to watch someone die that way again!

  • Charles
    January 27, 2013 8:32pm

    We wouldn’t have this problem if it wasn’t for the smoking ban. Before the ban people used ash trays inside buildings.

  • Judith Basham
    January 27, 2013 8:37pm

    If people want to smoke despite all the research that has been done and what it will probably do to their health, well let them. Let their decision become their financial burden. Period. No freebie hand outs. No bleeding hearts. Not only does the litter offends, but smokers stink worse then Axe!

  • January 27, 2013 8:46pm
    David Lebovitz

    Clare: I know. When I was recently in New York City, I saw a woman pick up a pick of trash (that wasn’t even hers!) and toss it in the garbage. I was so shocked.

    Kristi: I never thought of it that was. Interestingly, people who have children are said to cost money to health care systems, more than very ill people. So maybe they are encouraging smoking so it lowers the sperm count of me, and they have less kids.

    (Although since the government is paying people to have more kids, am not sure that theory I am espousing is correct..)

    Holycowgirl: I’m not deleting folks who disagree with the amount of cigarette butts on the ground, and the litter – which is the main subject of this post. Although I did mention in the post that I don’t have a problem with people who want to smoke, however I am surprised by the fact that the numbers of smokers are rising in France – as oppossed to other places where the rates are dropping, and how many teenagers smoke in France as well.

    Lucy: Yes, they have those electronic cigarette places in Paris. I’ve seen a few people use them, but part of it is that people here seem to like “novelties” (ie: verrines, slate plates, etc.) but it’s an interesting phenomenon, those smokeless cigarettes.

    Axelle: It’s interesting how the attitudes have changed in some ways. I remember in America when they starting launching all those no-smoking campaigns and people were freaking out about them. And now they’re just commonplace.

  • January 27, 2013 8:53pm

    To be honest I don’t mind if others want to smoke. It is their choice, their health and their life.
    But I hate to see how some people can be careless, considering the street as a garbage can, considering that if is not theirs 100%, they can trash it.
    Because it is not only cigarette buds you find.
    There are sodas cans, papers, pizza boxes, dog poop …
    Because it is not only in the streets but sometimes inside a nice building courtyard.

    Sometimes I wish we were living in Singapore, with an expensive fine if you throw a chewing gum on the street.
    And I don’t think the Mairie de Paris is doing a proper job. Streets are dirtier than they used to some years ago.

    And we know that when something does not look clean, people don’t respect.
    So it is a vicious circle.

    Then people complain because local taxes are exploding …

  • Brenda
    January 27, 2013 9:11pm

    David those photos are something else! How ugly. Seeing those photos makes me want to grab a broom and start sweeping. I guess I would be sweeping for a few eons though!

    I work in a extremely busy diagnostic department of a hospital where lung function tests are performed and it’s sad to see the debilitating effects cigarette smoking has on peoples health. We have a department that is totally devoted to setting people up on oxygen for home–without it they couldn’t live. The cost to quality of life, to health care, to the environment, to the innocent who don’t smoke, is beyond calculation.

    I sometimes wish cigarette smoking was illegal. I know that would cause other problems but it’s such a destructive/pointless things to do. But I understand the appeal as I also smoked for part of my life—I was a social/stress smoker, a few here, a few there. My late husband was a heavy smoker. As a trial lawyer he had a very stressful job and smoked constantly. And he used to say, “At least I know how I’ll go!” and he would laugh. When you get the diagnosis it is so surreal and mind numbing. The doctor said he had a year to live and he lived 13 months. His loss was beyond measure to me.

    Paris, what a jewel, and to have it littered like that is totally incomprehensible.

    Thank you for broaching this important topic.

  • marilynr
    January 27, 2013 9:15pm

    Why don’t the merchants clean this up? It would tke a few minutes each day to take out a broom and sweep this up. It would be easier if the cigarette butts weren’t there to start with. But, I would think merchants would want the fronts of their businesses to be clean, yes, even the gutter.

  • January 27, 2013 9:16pm

    Great post David.

    Littering the streets, roadways, countrysides, ANYPLACE, is degrading to the planet. Trash is trash, no matter if it’s a cigarette butt or a piece of paper. Those cigarette butts thrown into the street get washed down into sewer systems and they end up somewhere. Either clogging the city’s sewer filtering systems or draining out into some body of water. It just boggles my mind that so many people are either indifferent to the trash they’re throwing around or just don’t care.

  • January 27, 2013 9:19pm

    All the same, there’s way less smoking in France than there used to be back in the olden days when I used to smoke myself. (Pre October 9, 1985. 6:30pm. Not that I’m counting or anything.)

  • Hampton
    January 27, 2013 9:30pm

    Yadda Yadda Yadda! There is nothing worse than rude American tourists in Paris whining and complaining about cigarettes and they drink themselves silly and complain about the food prices and why don’t the French have an Olive Garden or Red Lobster. Please stay home or go be PC with Mayor Bloomberg or Mrs Clinton who started this mess.
    Clean streets no butts go to Singapore–see what happens when you disregard a littering sign.
    Actually, if someone is polite and say could you please not smoke for whatever reason I don’t mind putting it out. If someone is rude and a jerk well then you never know what I will say. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion but do not force your pc ideas on me. I am not a vegan, I wear Gucci leather loafers, enjoy pate and drive an elderly Bentz…If you don’t that’s ok…In the meantime I am going to light up then go inside and make a dessert from David’s The Sweet Life…

  • January 27, 2013 9:38pm

    The interesting thing is, when I came back to Paris after an absence of 20 years, it was noticeable how far fewer people smoked than in the 1970s. I had, in the interim, stopped smoking myself (everybody smoked in the 1970s, although the health risks were already well-known), so was aware of fewer smokers.

    Since then, with the introduction of non-smoking laws nearly as draconian as ours here in the UK (I am SO glad I don’t smoke any more!), we have more and more people eating outside in a February snowstorm so that they can smoke, and I don’t really notice it in France any more.

  • January 27, 2013 9:47pm

    I, too, am disgusted by the butts in the street. I have noticed lately, too, that we have a gum littering problem. I am enraged by it and wrote about it, because now, every time I walk on the street, I cannot help but see the splotches of gum.

    What gives cigarette smokers and gum chewers the right to litter? C’mon!

  • Marshall Waddell
    January 27, 2013 9:50pm

    You want fewer butts on the ground? Impose a hefty deposit on each cigarette, and provide the technology to return deposit upon insertion of each used cigarette. The deposit revenue could be used to boost street sanitation, and the potential to earn revenue would incentivize cigarette butt cleanup. It’s just shifting the beverage container model over to address another nasty public problem.

    • January 28, 2013 1:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of making cigarette filters illegal. Then people could smoke to their heart’s content (er, or not), and there would not be any cigarette butts to worry about.

  • fardous
    January 27, 2013 9:51pm

    me too , ihate even just how smell of it , alot men smoke in public and that me angry ,some are nice to off some are not .

  • January 27, 2013 9:56pm

    I quit smoking in 2004 and gained 30 pounds that year. It’s socially unacceptable to be overweight in France….I really think that’s the main thing. Many American women I know couldn’t shop for clothes in Paris where the average size in the shops is about a 4. One thing, though: I never thought Ireland would outlaw smoking in pubs, etc., but it happened. (Sort of like I never thought the Berlin wall would come down; it did.) It’s possible it could happen in France, too. Hope so. How many hungry people might we feed if we didn’t spend all that cash on cigarettes worldwide? Good post, David. Very sad photos.

  • CF
    January 27, 2013 10:17pm

    David, Thank you for yet another wonderful, educational and thought-provoking blog post, this time about a highly charged and difficult subject with many sides and facets.

    All my immediate antecedents died long, miserable, painful and expensive deaths of smoking related diseases, cancer, emphysema, etc. My sister was widowed in her early thirty’s with a young child because her husband died of emphysema after a many year decline into a truly gruesome death. My mother-in-law just died of COPD after smoking–militantly–for over 50 years. She quit a couple years before her death, but it was, not surprisingly, too late! Her last few years living with the cognitive deficits of an oxygen-deprived brain would have been comical were it not so devastating to those who loved her. The costs of cigarette smoking to my immediate and extended family have been astronomical.

    I live in a state in the US where smoking in all public buildings and now near entrances to public buildings is banned. I cannot describe how wonderful it is to go out to a bar, which I seldom did when smoking was allowed, and not have to eat smelling smoke and to not have my clothing and hair ruined due to smoke residue.

    I resent the potential health consequences inflicted upon me by my parents smoking throughout my youth and my mother smoking during her pregnancy with me. I resent the decades of my exposure to second hand smoke in the workplace and in other public places. The thought of all that makes me downright angry. I have absolutely no sympathy for any of the complaints of inconvenience by smokers because their habit directly and indirectly endangers others and there is not even a smidgeon of controversy over the medical findings of those dangers that harm not just the smokers, but those exposed to the secondhand smoke.

    All that said, it must also be recognized that with this kind of legislation, it all depends on whose ox is being gored. Legislated smoking bans allow the camel’s nose under the tent for other such legislation that might not pass my personal test of not infringing upon my personal liberty. For instance, there’s a lot of proposed and contemplated legislation right now in the US about sugar, fat, soda, fast food, etc, and also about “food safety”. In general, I am sure we can all agree that consuming unhealthful substances and contamination of food products is a bad idea. The problem is whose definition of “healthful” are you going to accept for legislation purposes? The definition of those who brought us margarine and 50+ years of “medical advice” promoting it? Or the folks who brought us High-Fructose Corn Syrup? How about the huge-mega-corporate-ag folks who are currently lobbying to have small family farms be forced to comply with all regulations that regulate corporate “food” producing giants including the National Animal ID system (NAIS) that would have a farmer have to file a report every time a chicken runs across the farm road to the neighbor’s property. A proposed plan where for small farmers each animal requires separate, individual numbers and reporting upon that animals every movement and cough or sneeze, but for large corporate farm operations entire herd and flocks of hundreds or thousands are treated as only one reporting number with only a couple of reporting events over an entire lifespan.

    Logic does not prevail when we are discussing government/corporate greed and imposition upon personal liberty. I would be willing to give up the, lovely for me, smoking bans in order to be assured of keeping my own personal freedom to decide which actions, foods, medical care and lifestyle interventions are indeed healthful or desirable for me and in order to keep personal liberties and responsibilities in the hands of the individuals involved.

  • Darla
    January 27, 2013 10:21pm

    My best friend Suzette died of lung cancer that metasized to her brain a week ago today. She was a two pack a day smoker since the age of 17. She died at the age of 62. A good way to combat smoking migjht be to show pictures of people on their deathbed as a result of smoking. I have seen what smoking does to a body and let me tell you, I have been scared straight.

  • Stephanie
    January 27, 2013 10:21pm

    Great post!

    Regarding health care and health care costs for smokers, I read a very interesting study that said smokers die earlier and faster than non-smokers and while the last months of smokers’ lives are expensive; over a lifetime smokers incur less health care costs than their non smoking peers. I wonder if (and hope) that the same principle applies to obesity.

  • blu
    January 27, 2013 10:23pm

    Unfortunately who is heavy smoker does not care of others or environment. Smoking is an heavy addiction and, simply, smokers need phisically and mentally to smoke, no matter what. Everything or everybody that seems an obstacle to this makes them crazy. They dont really see this addiction clearly. As sn exsmple If you go out for a coffee with a smoking friend he pretend you to sit out because he needs to smoke and, if you succeed to go inside the friend will start to rise nervousness only thinking of when he will smoke. Addiction is that, it come before anything else even politness. Of course yhere are exception but the most is like that. Its also a matter of how you are rised up and how smoking is accepted anf normal. Now nobody will smoke in s bat but before was normal. By the way i was an heavy smoker and happily stopped 5 years sgo.

  • January 27, 2013 10:40pm

    I love that you mentioned Axe. Years ago I worked as an art teacher at an English summer camp in Spain. The kids attending the camp had just hit puberty or were just on the cusp. I ended up having to confiscate Axe. In our office we had a shelf of the stuff just because those young Spanish boys had been tricked into thinking that it would make them irresistible to women. Like the idea that not smoking is très américain, it is hard to understand how such ideas grow.

  • Lucille
    January 27, 2013 10:49pm

    Purchasing cigarettes is not an illegal activity, so, if countries are serious about protecting the health of their citizens, they should make the manufacture and sale of tobacco products illegal. But they are not serious….they don’t care if people smoke and die of lung cancer. They have an addicted, captive audience and can collect revenue, almost limitless amounts, by taxing this horrendous product. I know of no other product that can kill so horribly that is marketed freely. Hmmm, guns. That’s another problem for another day.

  • January 27, 2013 10:57pm

    OMG! Look at all the posts, this really got folks attention. Has any post ever generated this many responses?? I was going to say I couldn’t even read the text because the pictures were so ick inspiring. Ack! Ack! Ack!

    January 27, 2013 11:04pm

    Please David, your so much better than this. Stick to your cooking!

  • KansasKate
    January 27, 2013 11:15pm

    @Holycowgirl The difference is, if you and I sit down in a cafe and YOU have a coke and a pastry, MY blood sugar doesn’t go up. If you smoke, the chemicals in the smoke get in my lungs, my clothes, my hair.

    Your right to do whatever the hell you want to your body ends where my right not be contaminated by second-hand smoke begins.

    @Meredith Mullins Try going to a discount chain store in the US — used diapers thrown on the ground in the parking lots. Way worse than chewing gum…

  • Brittany
    January 27, 2013 11:35pm

    Is teen smoking legal in France? That shocked, and quite hoenstly, disturbed me a little. Both of my parents have been smokers for as long as I can remember, and I think because they’ve always smoked I’ve been very turned off to smoking. It saddens me that many in France are more concerned with their outward appearance than their health. After all– beauty is temporary, and, as an old teacher of mine says, “Your health is your wealth!”

  • January 27, 2013 11:44pm

    A few random remarks from me: Thanks for writing this- I appreciate it! All of the “bad behaviors” you mentioned don’t create health problems for others. A person sitting next to me doing shots of vodka will not give me liver cancer. However, 2nd hand smoke is a legitimate thing. I was so happy when I returned to Germany after smoking in restaurants/bars was banned. The 1st time I visited, I only packed a couple pairs of pants. After the first night out, I basically couldn’t wear the pants again or had to wash them. They reeked of smoke. And I was surprised when I visited Paris and our server had to set her cigarette down to take our order. On another note, I never met my grandmother because she died from smoking before I was born. So sad young people (and older ones) just don’t get that. (BTW, I’ve seen a lot of overweight smokers. It’s not a foul proof diet plan! haha) Thanks again for all of your posts. I greatly enjoy all of them!

  • Bob Colman
    January 28, 2013 12:00am

    Quite simply, f you smoke you are a f*&^ing idiot who has no respect either for yourself or anyone else. Yes, it’s an addiction but one that can be broken and governments can, to a certain extent help that process by legislating to ban smoking in many areas like they have in Australia. What really gets me angry are those who smoke when with their children, particularly in confined spaces!
    And as for rights, nobody has the right to pollute the air that I use or litter the ground on which I walk.

  • January 28, 2013 12:35am

    This post has generated a huge amount of controversy. I love Paris, but there is a huge butt to that – I don’t like the cigarettes and the constant exposure to smoke in street cafes. As a first step, If only smoking would be banned in areas. Being a passionate foodie it breaks my heart and kills off the ability to get the most from the food when you are sitting amongst smokers. Part of a food experience is the smell, and can be lost when sitting amongst clouds of cigarette smoke. I really don’t want to eat my Croque Monsieur, my cassoulet, or my confit laced with cigarette smoke. We don’t want to isolate people, but coexist ina healthy way. Where I live in australia, smoking is banned in eateries, in cars with children, in front of public buildings and distance constraints on other areas. Where I worked we used to have to run the gauntlet walking through smoke plumes to exit and enter our building. This no longer happens and smokers have had to move further from the building entrance to light up. France, learn from others before you end up choked by the butt.

  • Deborah
    January 28, 2013 12:36am

    Walking on a street of cafes in L.A., my husband tossed his butt. He said he would never litter the street with a napkin. This is much worse.

  • margaret
    January 28, 2013 12:39am

    If you google “australian cigarette packs” you will see the off-putting designs on the packs now.

    Cigarettes are not allowed to be displayed in shops either (they are behind pull down shutters, in a cupboard or curtained off) and def. not sold to under 18 year olds.

    I dont know if its having any effect.

    I still see cig. butt litter though and it ends up draining into in OUR harbour!

  • Mary
    January 28, 2013 12:43am

    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.

  • Marilyn in Montreal
    January 28, 2013 1:05am

    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.

  • Anna
    January 28, 2013 1:19am

    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.

  • gram evans
    January 28, 2013 1:43am

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

  • karen victoria
    January 28, 2013 1:58am

    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.

  • Susan Glass
    January 28, 2013 2:09am

    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.

  • January 28, 2013 2:15am

    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?

  • june2
    January 28, 2013 2:33am

    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.

  • K
    January 28, 2013 2:35am

    @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?

    • January 28, 2013 2:41am

      @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.

  • Kaye-Anne
    January 28, 2013 2:58am

    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.

    • January 28, 2013 1:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      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.

  • January 28, 2013 3:45am

    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!!

  • KC
    January 28, 2013 4:18am

    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.

    • January 28, 2013 1:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      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.

  • Eddy
    January 28, 2013 4:36am

    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.

  • Oonagh
    January 28, 2013 5:00am

    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!

  • Charles
    January 28, 2013 10:39am

    Ash trays on top of litter bins would solve this problem

  • January 28, 2013 1:19pm

    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…..

  • Jessica
    January 28, 2013 1:52pm

    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.

  • Dave
    January 28, 2013 2:50pm

    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!

    • January 28, 2013 2:54pm
      David Lebovitz

      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.

  • January 28, 2013 2:54pm

    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.

  • Jacob
    January 28, 2013 4:00pm

    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)

  • Liz
    January 28, 2013 4:16pm

    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.

  • January 28, 2013 4:28pm

    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

  • Regina
    January 28, 2013 4:49pm

    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.

  • January 28, 2013 4:52pm

    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.

  • Suzanne
    January 28, 2013 5:02pm

    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.


  • January 28, 2013 6:27pm

    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.

  • January 28, 2013 7:26pm

    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 !

  • nina
    January 28, 2013 7:51pm

    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?

    • January 28, 2013 8:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      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.

  • Lisa
    January 28, 2013 8:22pm

    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?

  • abbie
    January 28, 2013 8:44pm

    @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 – 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 – This leads me to then think, 50 years from now will be do the same thing related to obesity?

    • January 28, 2013 9:20pm

      @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.

      • Bob Colman
        January 28, 2013 11:15pm

        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:

      • Eddy
        January 29, 2013 6:37pm

        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.

        • January 29, 2013 7:53pm

          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?

          • January 29, 2013 8:31pm
            David Lebovitz

            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.

  • January 28, 2013 8:57pm

    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.

  • ClaireD
    January 28, 2013 9:20pm

    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?

  • Julie
    January 28, 2013 11:35pm

    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?

  • J.T.
    January 28, 2013 11:59pm

    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!

  • January 29, 2013 12:19am

    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…

    • January 29, 2013 5:46am
      David Lebovitz

      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.)

  • shari
    January 29, 2013 12:33am

    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.

  • shari
    January 29, 2013 12:50am

    @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.

  • shari
    January 29, 2013 12:54am

    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. ; )

  • January 29, 2013 1:19am

    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.

  • Joyce Howe
    January 29, 2013 2:29am

    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.

  • Stoich91
    January 29, 2013 3:37am

    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

  • January 29, 2013 6:00am

    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.

  • January 29, 2013 6:16am

    :( sad.

  • AH
    January 29, 2013 11:26am

    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.

  • AH
    January 29, 2013 11:27am

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

  • Dorothee
    January 29, 2013 1:36pm

    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.

  • Marie
    January 29, 2013 1:48pm

    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)

  • Benjamin Wellman
    January 29, 2013 2:59pm

    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!

  • January 29, 2013 6:39pm

    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.

  • January 29, 2013 7:44pm

    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.