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.