Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

One of the first things the kids noticed when we got here was the number of people who smoke. There are smokers everywhere -- on the street, in the restaurants, in the shops. I even saw a lady smoking the other day at the hairdresser's. (The stylist actually gave her a light.) And for the record, Marlboros seem to be more popular than Gauloises. But things may be about to change; on January 1, a new law is set to go into effect that will ban smoking in bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and cafés. Although some doubt whether it will actually be enforced, it will be a huge change. What is most interesting to me is the language of the opposition. In both the U.S. and France, those against smoking bans use economic arguments. But the primary argument in the States is about individual rights -- it's my right to smoke and the government shouldn't be telling me what to do. Here, the arguments are about the threat to a way of life. Take a look at these excerpts from an article that ran in the International Herald Tribune.

"People say that a café is the thermometer of a country," said Cécile Perez, 54, owner of La Fronde, a bar-tobacco store in the historic Marais district. "In a café, while we smoke, we meet new people, we exchange ideas, we learn, we listen, we talk about everything. If we stop that, what do we have left?"

"Smokers are more passionate," said Véronique Moran, 51, who has smoked for 40 years, and is a regular at Le Cyrano, a café in Paris's bustling Place de Clichy. "We're more sensitive, we think about things and talk about things deeply, we get carried away, we rebel against things."

But today these rebels find themselves more marginalized than romanticized. "The ban on smoking in cafés is the end of a type of person," Moran said. "Now, people think about working more to make more money, being competitive, staying in shape, being good-looking."

I don't know about that. Personally, I'm just looking forward to a little less smoke in my face, my hair, and my clothes.

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