The image of France for many is a country of smoke-filled cafés and cigarette-puffing intellectuals, but all that is changing. From today a ban on smoking in public places has come into force, and in a year’s time the ban will extend to cafés, restaurants and clubs.
More than 175,000 special agents are being used to enforce the ban in workplaces, schools, airports, train stations, and hospitals. There will be fines for people breaking the law. “I’m a hospital worker and a smoker. I don’t know what I’m going to do without my cigarettes,” was one reaction.
People are being encouraged to quit, with pharmacies set to make a profit on anti-smoking products: “There’s been an increase in customers, especially yesterday afternoon and this morning. They’re up against the wall. They’ve decided they don’t have a choice because companies are forcing it upon them,” said one chemist.
Many smokers have reacted angrily to the new laws: “We’re in a country of idiots. We’re in a country of idiots,” said one man. However, polls show a majority of the public supports the new ban. Companies have the choice to provide airtight rooms with powerful extractor fans, but few are expected to do that because of the cost.