Only one restaurant in all Paris prohibits smoking. Only a handful, mostly American fast-food outlets, have nonsmoking sections. Premier Jacques Chirac rarely talks to reporters without waving a cigarette for emphasis. A stranger can always identify the high school in any Paris neighborhood by the cluster of teen-agers outside puffing awkwardly on cigarettes. The French government spends far more every year on promoting smoking than on discouraging it.
A closer look at the smoking problem in France, in fact, reveals a good deal about French attitudes and institutions and how much they differ from those in the United States. In its most potent argument against smoking restrictions, the French tobacco industry raises the specter of the United States. The tobacco interests insist that recent regulations and pressures in the United States deny smokers the individual liberties that Frenchmen hold dear.
The [Simone Veil] law prohibits any advertising of cigarettes except for a small quota for each brand in the written press, requires every package of cigarettes to state the nicotine and tar content and carry a notice that "abuse of smoking is dangerous," and prohibits smoking in buses, subways, elevators, schools and public places with limited ventilation.