In July 2011, non-smokers were expected to rejoice in Belgium when smoking was definitely banned from public places. Yes, that is right. July 2011. Probably beating the Western world record of disrespect for public health.
To be fair, smoking quit being allowed in schools in September 2008.
If you have been reading my blog long enough, you probably think I am quite biased against Belgium. This is totally untrue. It is not really a matter of sectarianism. I simply do not understand Belgium even though I have been living there for the past fourteen years.
As far as smoking is concerned, France reacted much earlier. Later than the US probably but as early as 1976 and 1991. The real ban came only in 2006 though.
Tobacco is heavily taxed in France. Last year, the government ‘earned’ 18 billion dollars from tobacco taxes, most of this money being pumped back into our ailing Social Security. The easy way to take care of people who get very sick because of tobacco.
Smoking is a very expensive pastime. A pack of cigarettes now costs more or less 8 dollars and its price should go up pretty soon.
It sounds good for non-smokers, doesn’t it?
Well, let me tell you. I love to live in Brittany because people on the beach do not smoke... Or if they do, there is a lot of room to avoid them. But people usually don’t smoke while they are taking walks on the beach.
But try to take a long walk in Paris and I am sure that by the end of the day, your eyes will be watering and your throat will feel scratchy. Why? The ambient pollution? Yes but only partly.
People no longer smoke inside their office. It is totally forbidden.
Therefore, they break off every now and then and they go outside to smoke.
They usually stand on sidewalks when the weather is fine. When it’s raining, they still go outside to light their cigarette. Is there any other choice?
They huddle in the entrance of their building. And then you do wonder what’s so enjoyable about smoking that people are ready to stand outside in the rain and in the cold while they are slowly inhaling poison. (Poisoning you too with the cloud of smoke they produce.)
Take a walk on the sidewalk and you become an innocent passive smoker because people smoke while they are walking by or because you walk by chain smokers. Your choice? Not really.
Nowadays, terraces are besieged by smokers who do smoke. Period.
You look at the smokers and you feel like life is really unfair. They are enjoying the sidewalk and the sights and the passers-by and you can’t. Not anymore.
It is even worse when you get close to a school entrance hall. Then you do end up walking through a thick cloud of smoke. And you get lucky if you don’t get a cigarette burn on your way. (Kids under 16 are forbidden to buy cigarettes. What's going on there?)
And then the smokers will drop their butt without even putting it out. In Paris or Brussels, the butt goes out on its own but imagine what may happen along a country road when it ends up in a dry ditch.
The car drivers are even worse because they flick theirs through their slightly opened window. From time to time, the stub ends up dangerously close to you or in a baby carriage. (No kidding.)
I know I probably sound intolerant but if I feel like smoking, I want to do it on my own after weighing up the pros and cons and not because someone forces it upon me at every bend of my path.
I am pretty sure I won’t find many pros by the way. Who can in this day and age? Who can ignore the fact that “Smoking can seriously damage your health?” In France, they even took one step forward: “Smoking will kill you.” Oh really?
What about us, harmless passers-by?
A while ago, I discovered this neon sign. The name of the café is “The Smoking Dog”... "Au chien qui fume"...
*Good Luck, and Good Night*