22 April 2006

Twenty five percent of French people smoke; compared to twenty three percent of Americans

People in the United States often ask about the level of foreignness of our foreign friends, The French. Longstanding stereotypes are tightly held, almost cherished. We love our illusions, do we not? When these questions come up, I gladly answer them.

But, after I attempt to dispel the most ridiculous of stereotypes, the questioners get suspicous of me, as if to say "Gee whiz! Those chain-smoking, smelly, rude frogs have really brain-washed him."

One stereotype that even I believed until 2005 is --- "all French people smoke." It seems to be true, but the numbers don't support the myth. Nonetheless, smokers are accommodated everywhere in Paris...with few exceptions. Often, when I've asked for a non-smoking table at a restaurant, the waiter has simply removed the ashtray, motioned for me to sit down and presented the menu. Voila! Then he turns around and disappears into a cloud of smoke.

A recent survey revealed that a majority of French people would prefer to dine in a smoke-free environment. I don't know if that speaks to their distaste for cigarette smoke or if it illustrates the fact that, in France, cuisine trumps tobacco on the hierarchy of desire. If you are one of these aesthetes and would like to dine without getting lung cancer, you should visit Paris Non Fumeur to find smoke-free establishments.
"Surveys show a large majority of French people would like smoke-free restaurants. Since 1992, some bars and restaurants have been required to have clearly identified nonsmoking areas, but in practice the areas are often nonexistent or hard to spot." Full article (IHT/Reuters)


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