French Begin to Put Smoking Ban in Place

A smoking ban begins Thursday in French schools, hospitals and youth centers. It will take effect in restaurants, workplaces and other public areas in 11 months. A large majority of the French say they approve the ban, which will bring France in line with a trend among European countries.

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Add France to that list. Beginning tomorrow, France joins several other European nations in banning smoking in public places. The French government adopted the ban after figures showed smoking was on the rise, and that an estimated 5,000 people a year die of secondhand smoke. Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Not all of France is being forced to quit cold turkey. While smoking will no longer be permitted inside offices, hospitals, train stations, airports, shops and schools, the country's bars, cafes, restaurants and licensed tobacco bars have been given another year to kick the habit.

The government granted an extension to these smokers' havens after heavy lobbying by the country's 30,000 tobacco bars, the only point of sale for cigarettes in France. While a large majority of French people support the ban on smoking in public, two-thirds say cigarettes should be allowed in cafes and tobacco bars.

Smoking has in general been on the decline in France, but recent statistics show it is becoming popular again, especially among the young, where one half of 18 to 34 year olds have begun lighting up. A 1991, a law already restricted smoking in many public buildings, but it was largely ignored. But this time around, the legislation will be enforced by 175,000 plainclothes agents ready to slap a $90 fine on lawbreakers. Fines for repeat offenders can go as high as $900.

Unidentified Man: (French Spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Judging by the amount of TV news coverage the measure is getting, it looks like this time France may be serious. But the real test will come a year from now when French cafes have to go ne fumer.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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