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A Tradition Ends in French Cafes

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A Tradition Ends in French Cafes

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A Tradition Ends in French Cafes

A Tradition Ends in French Cafes

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France has done the unexpected and moved against smoking in French cafes.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of music)

It's hard to imagine many famous French faces without a haze of cigarette smoke - (unintelligible) Belmondo, Bardot, Sartre and Jeanne Moreau, holding their cigarette - French word by the way - aloft and pursed in your lips to make the tip of the cigarette smolder.

This week, a ban went into effect that prohibits most smoking in cafes, bars and restaurants throughout France. Sounds like trying to ban public vodka drinking in Moscow. But 20 percent of the population or 12 million people smoke in France, and more than 70,000 reportedly die every year from what doctors attribute to smoking-related illnesses which many French people, at least in my experience, instead attribute to prolonged exposure to American culture.

Now, there's been opposition from people who complain that banning smoking is a step toward restricting drinking, adultery and other French liberties that Napoleon defended at Waterloo. But surprise, surprise most Parisians interviewed in the French Press said they actually like being able to smell food and breathe freely in cafes without worrying about swallowing secondhand smoke. Fines for smoking inside a cafe begin at $100 or these days about 5 euros.

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