French smokers hit sidewalks as smoking ban goes into effect

Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Tourists enjoy a cigarette at the terrace of a cafe-restaurant on the pavement of the Champs Elysees in Paris, Tuesday Jan. 1, 2008, the only place where it is allowed to smoke, on the first day of the total ban of smoking in French cafes, restaurants and bars.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

PARIS -- Nonsmokers reveled. Some smokers grumbled. But others pondered kicking the habit as France's smoking ban went into effect Tuesday with the start of the new year.

Owners of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cafes, where smoking is now prohibited, worried it would be bad for business.

Newly hung no-smoking signs dotted the entrance and walls of the Cafe Elysees, off Paris' celebrated Champs-Elysees avenue, and staffers bundled up against the cold for sidewalk smoke breaks. Client Pierre Morgon, 22, praised the ban, saying the cafe's clean air allowed him to better appreciate the food.

"Today's filet mignon tastes richer than it did yesterday," the Cafe Elysees regular said with a sly smile.

Morgon, a smoker, said the restrictions would also help motivate him to quit: "There's no way I'll be able to put it off anymore."

Others saw the ban as attack on their rights.

Jean-Pierre Aiglement, a 55-year-old waiter at the Cafe Au Depart in northern Paris, vowed not to be "chased out onto the pavement" by the "stupid law."

French officials gave smokers a New Year's Day reprieve, saying they would only start enforcing the ban today. But many Paris cafes and restaurants had already gone smoke-free.

Under France's ban, those caught lighting up inside face a $93 fine, while owners who turn a blind eye to smoking in their establishments face a $198 fine.

With the ban, France joins the swelling ranks of European countries that have enacted broad anti-smoking restrictions.

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