France to introduce smoking ban in public places next year

The days of cigarette-friendly France are about to go up in smoke.

The prime minister yesterday announced a ban on smoking in public places like offices, schools and public buildings will start in February, while restaurants, dance clubs and some types of bars can delay applying the order until 2008.

"I am convinced the French people are now ready," said Dominique de Villepin, adding France to a growing list of European nations like Ireland, Spain, Britain and Italy to adopt similar measures. "The issue is ripe in our country, given the experiences that we know of elsewhere."

Villepin, speaking in an interview on LCI television, said the ban will be ordered "by decree" in the next few days, a maneuver that allows the government to avert a potentially explosive parliamentary debate ahead of presidential and legislative elections next year.

Many French treasure their right to light up in cafes, bars or restaurants, and have sought to cast the debate as one of freedoms being infringed. Smoking in France isn't as taboo as in many other countries: Even the French presidency's Web site shows a photo of a young President Jacques Chirac with a cigarette in his mouth.

The new rule will affect schools, train stations, airports, offices, public buildings and other enclosed public spaces starting Feb. 1, Villepin said. Restaurants, discos and special cafes where tobacco is sold will be given an "adjustment" period until Jan. 1, 2008.

Smokers who infringe the ban will face fines of ¤75 (US$95), while proprietors of buildings where the violations take place will be subject to twice that, Villepin said. "And we will mobilize a sizable inspection team" to ensure that the law is respected, he added.

Villepin said the state-run health care system will pay some costs of anti-smoking treatments for smokers who want to quit, while state-run hospitals will increase medical consultation services to help people kick the habit.

With the move, the center-right government was taking quick action after a parliamentary panel on Tuesday called for a ban on smoking in enclosed public areas within a year. It had urged a blanket ban - no exemptions - by no later than next September.

The panel also floated an idea for "hermetically sealed" rooms in which smokers can light up, which Villepin said he supports. But in places like cafes or restaurants, no service would be allowed inside such rooms "so the staff will be protected" from smoke, he said.

Bar owners, tobacco vendors, restaurateurs and others in the service and hospitality industries have vowed to fight anti-smoking measures, claiming that bans would hurt their business.

A top French association of hospitality industry business, UMIH, said in a statement Sunday the ban would be "ineffective," adding: "Once again, it is the cafe, restaurant and discotheque sector that is the scapegoat of all society's ills."

Villepin said public health was at stake. An estimated 60,000 people die in France from smoking-related illness each year, with another 5,000 deaths attributed to the effects of second-hand smoke, he said.

"I think everybody understands today how we need to move toward this public health necessity," Villepin said. "What the professionals in these industries want is that the state indicate clearly what it wants - well, that's done."

Villepin had originally sought to take up a smoking ban last spring, but the issue was consigned to the back-burner after huge street protests erupted against - and ultimately doomed - his youth jobs plan. The outcry prompted widespread calls for his resignation.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star