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Is this the end of the Gauloise Era for the Gauls?
The bill to reduce the use of tobacco in public areas saw the light in 1991 when the Government voted-in a law concerning tobacco and alcohol, proposed by Claude Evin, the Minister for Social Affairs at that time. The law stated, amongst many points, that there would be no more promotion and advertising of these commodities and we saw the emergence of no smoking zones in restaurants and work places. Awareness has steadily risen over the years with Health Professionals receiving specialized training on the subject and prevention campaigns taking place in schools and hospitals.
France has now decided to follow the example fore fronted by Ireland in 2004, and later by Norway, Sweden and Italy, to adopt a zero tolerance to smoking in public places. More European countries will follow suit. Prior to next year’s presidential elections on April 22nd , the somewhat out of favor present government has decided that at this point, they may as well approve this “unpopular” decree (although 70% of the French want to prohibit smoking in most public areas only 40% are in favor of extending this to restaurants and bars)
From February 1st, 2007, there will be no more smoking in public places with the exception of bars, cafes, discotheques, restaurants and casinos. These establishments have until January 1st 2008 to acquire enclosed, ventilated areas for smokers where they are segregated but cannot expect service of any kind from employees.
Statistics prove the point for applying this law. From 1950 to 2000, an estimated 60 million people have died as a result of tobacco exposure which is roughly France’s present population. Every year tobacco is held responsible for 66000 deaths (one in nine), of which 6000 are non-smokers. Tobacco related diseases cost France 10 billion euros a year.
After a growth in tobacco sales in the seventies, there has been a steady decrease since 1991 and since 2003, business is down by 32%. If you want to buy cigarettes in France, or postal stamps, metro tickets, lottery cards and government stamps to pay fines, you go to a Bar Tabac which has as its insignia “la Carotte”, a reddish elongated diamond sign above the door. To compensate for the loss of business, last year the Government subsidized the industry 150 million so volume may be down but revenue is up by nearly 10%. Of the 17000 Bar Tabacs, 1500 have closed and in order to maintain existence, there are plans for them to sell more sundry items with perhaps SNCF train tickets, DVDs or reading material. The tobacconists were protesting in the streets on November 6th as they want more than a year to put the system in place. There are surely more protests to come over the course of the next year.
The Government is also stepping in to help those who want to give up smoking. A smoker can now pay a visit to a “Tobaccologue” or to his General Practitioner where he has a first consultancy of 45 minutes to discuss the history of his addiction, his symptoms and receives a breath test to monitor the level of carbon monoxide in his lungs. He is given any necessary medication, a Smokers log to chart development, and a scheduled second appointment 10 to 15 days later. He is encouraged to see the Tobaccologue or Doctor over the course of the coming months.50 euros are reimbursed on the cost of patches and aids to give up smoking.
A new advertising campaign starting mid November uses a seventies theme to point out our growing awareness of the dangers of smoking, especially passive smoking.
It is at the dawn of 2008 that we can bid a final adieu to public smoking…for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.