The End of Smoking in France?

2 Jan

This post has almost nothing to do with wine, except that cigarettes often go well with wine (as with many other things: coffee, World War II, seedy hotels, the 1940s, Russia, women).

And I admit that the title of this post is a bit extreme. To my defense, I just recently finished an excellent biography of Theodore Roosevelt, wherein the Spanish-American War (“Cuba Libre!”) broke out and the yellow press stirred up jingoism that knew no bounds. My writing, therefore, will probably be more sensationalist than usual.

That being said, the New York Times reported a smoking ban that went into effect on Wednesday in France. According to the article, “smoking has been banned in every commercial corner of ‘entertainment and conviviality’ — from the toniest Parisian nightclub to the humblest village cafe.”


I can see why this had to happen. The article cited statistics where more than 70,000 Frenchmen/women/babies die from smoke- and second-hand smoke-related illness every year. If Amélie were to have worked in that little Parisian café for the rest of her life, chances are she would have died of emphysema at 65.

There’s another part of me, though, that cries for the vices, those little things that help take the edge off of work and generally make life more enjoyable. Casual smoking is one of them. Drinking is another one.

Drinking and smoking? Even better.

There’s a stigma against smoking not present with drinking. One easy contemporary example can be seen on MySpace. In the “About Me” section there is a question: “Drink / Smoke?” Most (like… 95% of people) say yes to drinking, but it’s the rare, brave soul that reveals they smoke at all.

This can be expected. And it’s a necessary step, given smoking’s terrible track record of health.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

For Mr. Le Pape, the ban signals the demise of a part of French culture. “It means the destruction of village life,” he said. “What will happen to the ritual of arriving at the cafe in the morning to read the morning paper over a coffee and a cigarette?”

At Le Musée du Fumeur (The Museum of Smoking), there is concern that the French may not be able to think as well without their cigarettes. “All our great writers seem to have been smokers,” said Michka Seeliger-Chatelein, one of the curators.

Most of those writers seem to have died tragic deaths, but I blame foie gras, World War I / II, and general disregard for health as the primary culprits.


3 Responses to “The End of Smoking in France?”

  1. semiplenus January 4, 2008 at 2:57 am #

    Unhappily for the many Bavarians who smoke like chimneys but to my utter delight, the public ban on cigarettes was also enacted here just three days ago.

    Anyway, as vices go, I would have to contend that the drinking of wine is the much more sophisticated and far less plebeian of the two. Here is an attempt at describing the taste and mouthfeel of both instruments of pleasure (see if you can guess which is which):

    #1: A nose of peaches, sweet, combined with something akin to the aroma of crushed ice and ginger ale. On the palette, sweet peaches continue with tons of mouthwatering sourness to provide a delicate balance that blankets the tastebuds. A taste of slate at the finish.

    #2: A nose of Guangzhou factories with a light admixture of sulfur and gasoline. On the palette wisps of hot fumes expand quickly into bilious clouds of thick, gray vapor – strong notes of barbecue chicken, far beyond well done. Aftertaste of campfire and burning plastic at the finish.

  2. vanessa January 13, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    Why am I not surprised you enjoy smoking? Of course, you must know that it kills taste buds and deadens ones sense of smell?

    After quoting the statistic that, ” 70,000 Frenchmen/women/babies die from smoke- and second-hand smoke-related illness every year” you then sigh for your own singular passing fancy with statements like, “cigarettes often go well with wine” and “those little things that help take the edge off of work and generally make life more enjoyable. Casual smoking is one of them.”

    It reminds me of many grand narcissists defeated in history, such as those slave owners who submitted to emancipation, but pined for the good ‘ol days of ownership.

    Public smoking is as déclassé as it gets, and one of the more archaic habits of the French that I’m thrilled they’re abandoning. Viva the waiters and waitresses who’s death by second hand smoke judgment will now be pardoned.

  3. vinicultured January 13, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    Ouch! You’re comparing me to a slave owner who pined for the good ‘ol days of ownership? I guess criticism is the bitter pill to swallow for voicing private opinions publicly, eh?

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