France smoking ban: Lawmakers vote to ban smoking in woodlands to curb risk of blazes

Firefighters battle a large fire at Chiberta forest in Anglet, southwestern France, Thursday, July 30, 2020.
Firefighters battle a large fire at Chiberta forest in Anglet, southwestern France, Thursday, July 30, 2020. Copyright AP Photo/Bob Edme, File
By Angela Symons with AP
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Lawmakers have voted on measures to tackle growing destruction from climate change-related wildfires.

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French lawmakers have voted to ban smoking in all forests and woods during the fire season.

The ban is part of a series of proposed measures to tackle growing destruction and dangers from climate change-related blazes.

National Assembly lawmakers voted unanimously (197-0) on Wednesday in favour of a proposed law to better prevent and tackle forest fires. The draft has already passed through the Senate.

An amendment also adopted by lawmakers would ban smoking in or near all forests and woods when authorities deem the fire-risk to be elevated. 

When is fire season in France?

France - one of the most wooded countries in Europe - has long been afflicted by forest fires. But they generally used to start later in the year. 

The fire season that was commonly in summer is now extending to other months in drought-hit areas of southern France and other parts of Europe.

Wildfires are also becoming more frequent and harder to stop, and doing more damage. Scientists say they’ll likely get worse as climate change intensifies. The Mediterranean region is warming faster than the global average.

France’s firefighters have already battled woodland-destroying blazes that started unusually early this year. 

Droughts that hit France last year have been compounded by shortages of rain this past winter, leaving tinder-dry woodlands at even greater risk.

Why is smoking being banned in forests?

The smoking ban will build on an existing forest law that already bans the lighting of fires within 200 meters of wooded areas. It aims to reduce the risk of fires started by discarded cigarettes - a frequent cause of blazes, especially when woodlands are dry.

The government says human activity is by far the most frequent trigger of forest fires in France, responsible for 90 of blazes.

Lawmaker Anthony Brosse, who proposed the smoking amendment, said it would make the legislation clearer for French citizens.

Senators and National Assembly lawmakers will work next on a final draft of the proposed law before its expected adoption.

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