Thursday marks an important health and cultural shift for France when a new law comes into force banning smoking in public places. Offices and other public buildings come under the new legislation but cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels and casinos are exempt until 2008.
The state is to aid would-be quitters by handing out coupons for the purchase of Nicotine patches and chewing gum.
Helplines which advise smokers on how to give up have seen business boom.
“ I would say the number of calls we get has doubled. Around 500 calls come in per day – 300
asking for help in how to beat the addiction and around 200 for information concerning the new law. Most people appear to be coming to terms with the new reality,” said a spokesperson for the helpline.
A key question is whether the authorities will enforce the ban.
In 1991 France introduced a reform ordering restaurants and bars to set up smoking and non-smoking areas and this is widely ignored.
A series of fines will act as the stick with individual puffers facing a 68 euro fine. Those in charge of the business or building will be slapped with a 135 euro fine going up to 750 euros for repeat offences.