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Some Blatantly Flout Tough New Smoking Law

November 1, 1992

PARIS (AP) _ Some French are delighted, some are disgusted, while others are blatantly flouting a tough new anti-smoking law that went into effect across the country Sunday.

″The battle lines are drawn,″ said Alain Genestar, writing in a front- page editorial in Le Journal du Dimanche, Paris’ only Sunday newspaper. ″What do I mean, battle? It’s a war.″

The law bans smoking in restaurants, offices and public places except in designated smoking areas, and in public transportation.

″I’m not going to stop smoking at work,″ said Odile Marie, an office worker at Telediffusion de France, which distributes radio and TV programs.

″I’m a very tense person, I drown my stress in cigarettes,″ she said. ″If I stopped smoking, my rate of work would slow down. People need to respect that in me, too.″

Miss Marie says, however, that away from the office she’ll refrain from lighting up in public areas or places where it bothers people.

Polls indicate up to 84 percent of the French approve of the law and 65 percent support pressure to enforce it.

But howls of protest have risen from cafe, restaurant and hotel owners, who fear losing clientele for enforcing the law, or hefty fines of up to $1,200 dollars - or even prison terms - if they don’t. Individual violators are to be fined $120 to $260.

Dozens of cafes and bars across Paris put up yellow signs on their doors saying, ″Bar Fumeurs″ (Smokers’ Bar).

Joel Robuchon, the famed chef at the three-star restaurant Jamin, one of the swankiest in Paris where diners often enjoy a pungent cigar after a meal, said Sunday it would be extremely difficult to enforce the new law.

″It’s hard to harmonize this with the dining experience,″ he said in a radio interview.

Daniel Estival, owner of L’Estival restaurant in Paris’ garment district, said flatly, ″I refuse to let them force me to refuse my own clients. ... Eighty-five percent of them smoke.″

He said he would join the Bar Fumeurs movement to warn customers before they enter. ″We’ll wait for the police to visit or for a client to complain,″ Estival said. ″Then we’ll see.″

One French lawmaker even refused to conform to the law in the National Assembly, which he said was different from other public places.

″It’s forbidden to forbid,″ sniffed Jean Le Garrec, a socialist member of the Assembly. ″I plan to abrogate all the idiotic socialist laws, beginning with this one.″

France has one of the highest rates of smokers in Western Europe: 40 percent of all adults, according to 1991 figures. Youths aged 18-24 account for the highest proportion of smokers.

Air France announced Friday that smoking will be banned starting Jan. 1 on internal European flights shorter than two hours. The airline has banned smoking on domestic flights since 1990.

The law, adopted in January, is part of a progressive crackdown on smokers, including a staggered price increase. A bill headed to Parliament proposes raising cigarette prices 15 percent by late 1993.

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