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Friday, January 04, 2008

France Goes No-Smoking

Awwwwwww, France...what the hell happened to you? You were one of the last bastions for the freedom of cigarette smokers. And now you caved...caved into the undocumented and unscientific claims made about second-hand cigarette smoke. So sad, so sad - not surprising though. That you succumbed so quickly is the startling point.

From AFP:

    Europe started 2008 with a raft of new laws against smoking, air pollution and even junk food adverts, but some grumbled that the New Year's resolutions from the "nanny state" cramped their style.

    Germany, France and Portugal joined many of their neighbours with anti-smoking bans in bars, restaurants and cafes from January 1, lifting the grey haze that was part of their romantic atmosphere for more than a century.


    While many accepted the new rules as reasonable measures in the name of public health, some bristled at what they called the state's overreach and the creeping end of the European way of life.

    "I will not let anyone stop me from smoking at my own business," Ali, owner of the Westend Pinte bar in Berlin, told Germany's mass-market Bild newspaper.

    "I've been smoking 40 cigarettes a day since I was 12 -- I can't quit now."

    Anne Cicek, manager of the Bier Bar in east Berlin, told the daily Berliner Zeitung that she would defy the rules: "We are not little children who need to be told what we cannot do."

    The conservative newspaper Die Welt noted that 19th century revolutionaries in Berlin had waved the banner for, among other civil liberties, the right to smoke wherever they pleased.

    "The freedom to smoke in public was one of the few lasting achievements of 1848. That is over now," it lamented. "Of course neither the West nor democracy will founder with the smoking ban. But will anything really be gained for people's well-being or their health?"


    France in effect sent its more than 13 million smokers out into the cold on New Year's Day as few bars and restaurants took on the large renovation and equipment costs to construct separate smoking rooms.

    Despite opinion polls showing broad support for the ban, some commentators saw a threat to France's hallowed "liberte".

    Writing in the left-wing Liberation newspaper, sociologist Henri Pierre Jeudy suggested the ban marked "the end of an era" for France -- and a danger for personal freedoms.

    "Public health costs are being used to justify an ever more coercive control over our private lives," he said, with France's yen for smoky cafes now cast as "an unhealthy mistake".

Welcome to the Nanny State, Europe - or as many of us in the U.S. call it, depending on where we live - either Massachusetts, Minnesota and California.

To paraphrase George Costanza from the sit-com "Seinfeld" - Die Welt has it right, baby: "neither the West nor democracy will founder with the smoking ban. But will anything really be gained for people's well-being or their health?"



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