15m French smokers banned from lighting up in public places

A ban on smoking in French public spaces came into effect today, a change that may alter the image of a country socially defined in part by its smoky cafes.

France’s 15 million smokers will be banned from lighting up in workplaces, schools, airports, hospitals and other “closed and covered” public places.

More than 175,000 agents are to enforce the ban, handing out fines of €67 for smokers and €133 for employers who look the other way.

In a year, the ban will extend to cafes and restaurants – sure to be the moment of truth for a certain image of France, where writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are remembered with cigarettes dangling from their mouths.

“A world is collapsing,” writer Philippe Delerm wrote in a front-page ode to the cigarette in Le Monde newspaper, referring to the alluring image of the chain-smoking intellectual. “Those were good times. But nobody thought about the collateral damage.”

Statistics – such as 66,000 smoker deaths per year in France – and changing norms are snuffing out the romance along with the cigarette.

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