Saturday, January 12, 2008

Absolutely fuming...

There has recently been in France the curious sight of crowds gathered outside the local bars and restaurants. Are the bar workers on strike and picketing their places of work? Has the Campaign for Real Ale reached France? Well, actually it is just the introduction of phase two of the anti-smoking regulations which from the new year have applied to cafés, restaurants, etc.!

So, in the depth of winter we see the hardened smokers having to walk outside for a puff. That seems no great hardship and does mean that everyone can enjoy smoke-free air while enjoying a drink. Of course there has been the expected outcry - particularly from bar owners in rural areas complaining that this will see the end of country bars which tend to be the social centre of smaller isolated communities. Perhaps it is worth bearing in mind, though, that many rural bars also double as the village tabac (tobacconist)!

We have also heard comments that this could affect tourism! Perhaps the classic Gallic image has been one of Gitane-smoking French philosophers in fashionably hazy bars - and perhaps that has been seen as a haven for overseas visitors escaping smoking restrictions at home.

However, my guess is that for every tourist put off by the new atmosphere of café society, there will be two more savouring the lack of ashtrays and smoke. And the biggest surprise of all - apparently the smoking ban is supported by about 70% of the French people! Of course there is no ban on smoking on the open-air terraces or at pavement tables which certainly abound here in the sunny South and in a region that has 300 days of sun, perhaps life will not be so tough for smokers here. I can't really imagine these new regulations impacting much on tourism. What about expats - would such regulations affect your decision to relocate to a particular country, one way or the other?

Anyway, to keep things in proportion, let's hope that the whole PC thing does not go too far - they'll be banning alcohol from bars next... in fact, I couldn't get a drink in the local bar the other evening - but that was because the barman was outside having a smoke...


14 comments:

Paul Garrard said...

I don't understand the connection you seem to have made between smoking bans and CAMRA ?
Smoking bans are surely down to governments seeing sense. A rare occurance indeed !

Will Pow said...

Bonjour Paul... and many thanks for contributing. I entirely agree that it should be up to governments to take the action to ensure that non-smokers, children, etc., are protected in this way, even if I do not generally go along with the "nanny state" concept.

In a lighter vein, there was no intended direct connection between CAMRA and smoking bans - I have no idea where the CAMRA policy falls on this, or even if they have one - it was really just some jokey speculation as to why there might be crowds gathering outside French bars in the winter - until realising the actual reason!

On that subject, though, even the finest, darkest French beers, don't really approach the flavour of a good real ale! Perhaps this blog should be exploring some of the unexpected sacrifices an expat can face...

Ellis Nadler said...

It's amazing how quickly we got used to a smoke free nation here

nielsp said...

When the instituted a smoking ban in Ottawa Canada I found that my wife and I were now visiting restaurants more often.

Most restaurants saw a business increase and it was only those hard-core smoking taverns and pubs that has trouble for awhile. I don't know if all of them ever fully recovered.

Niels Henriksen

Will Pow said...

Many thanks to Ellis and Niels for joining the discussion.

Yes, Ellis, I think we will become accustomed to smoke-free bars and restaurants very quickly - and perhaps even the most hardened Gitane-puffers will get the hang of it!

I used to smoke but even then found some French bars just too smoky - the change is overdue here I would say. Like Niels, I think I will be more comfortable going to restaurants now, especially with non-smoking friends and children - and I am sure that is right, that they will win more customers than they will lose...

Wendy said...

It's funny how no matter where in the world this is happening the business owners say the same things. I have been many places with smoking bans and it doesn't seem to have hurt their tourism.

Will Pow said...

It is great to get this international perspective - and it sounds as if you have travelled a lot Wendy. The French doubters, and any governments considering smoking bans, should be reading the comments on this post!

OMYWORD! said...

Hi Will. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Here in Paris I've been interested to see what happens. I used to be a smoker years ago, so I don't like to complain. But the smoke was so thick, and when I got home my clothes reeked of it. So it took the pleasure out of going out.

Now, our "local" seems much less crowded. I hope that changes. People stand or sit outside to smoke, and the owner takes coffee out to them, which is nice.

I was torn - to see such a long-time habit change, but to breath free again.

Will Pow said...

Are French smokers going to drink at home now? In the rural areas it seems that the cafés are thinning out a bit, but perhaps that is because so many are standing outside! Also, January is a hard time to judge this as there are not many tourists around, and the locals have no money after Christmas - so bars and restaurants are usually less busy.

My guess is that the average village bar will maintain its role as the social hub, even if the clientèle may change a little...

Seeker said...

We heard the dire warnings here in Florida, too. We are so dependant on touriam and particularly no-US tourists. People predicted huge drops in visitors when we went smoke free...never happened! International tourism continues to grow each year.

I rather suspect the gloom and doom publicity was coming form the tobacco industry, fearing a loss in their sales. I know when I travel, being able to eat without smoke around is a big plus...loving the change!

Will Pow said...

Many thanks for those further thoughts, Lindsay. I think we are seeing a distinct pattern here, internationally.

No wonder the tobacco companies seem to be turning to the less developed nations now... and going back to our basic theme, perhaps smoking bans will actually encourage expats and tourism generally...

Towers said...

Visits to pubs and restaurants in the UK have become fun and a pleasure once more - thanks to the smoking ban. Scotland got the ban before England and we had already got a taste of the delight of waking up on New Year's Day in Edinburgh 2007 feeling a bit the worse for wear but with NO sore throat due to other people's smoke and no need to immediately do a hair to get rid of the stink of fags. I am delighted that England & France have followed suit. The Languedoc has just become perfect.

Will Pow said...

Nice to hear from someone who knows the Languedoc! As we near the end of the first month, I think everyone is getting used to the idea of the smoking ban - and just accepting it now. It should be good for everyone really...

tangocherie said...

Saludos de Buenos Aires!

I'm an expat from California, where anti-smoking laws were put into effect years ago. I was shocked beyond reason when here in BsAs 2 years ago the same laws were passed.

I never believed the Argentines would obey them, but obey they do. And I, as someone terribly allergic to smoke (I never had asthma until I moved here) am SO very grateful!

I'm a tango dancer who used to often leave the salons running because I couldn't breathe. Now my only problem is the terrible pollution in the street.

But hey, I'm happy I can now dance all night long without using my inhaler!
(Oh but I do miss France!)