Maintaining my recent European theme, Peter Thurgood has written an article for The Free Society entitled Spot the difference: how Paris is coming to terms with the public smoking ban.
The first thing I noticed was that almost every bar/restaurant, had outside seating, with patio heaters and a plastic awning around it. The second thing I noticed were the ashtrays on every table. Could this be the headquarters of the French Resistance? Whatever it was, I was determined to enter, and hopefully join up.
Inside the area cordoned off by the plastic awning, it was comfortable and warm, and the waitress accepted me and my smoking habit with a friendly smile and no irritating hand waving in front of her face, which we seem to experience in the UK. Other customers came and went, some smoked, some didn’t, but the atmosphere at all times was warm and friendly, just the opposite to the intolerance smokers are subjected to here in the UK.
I went to a number of other restaurants, bars, and cafes and, at a guess, I would say that approximately 80 per cent of them had this same type of plastic awning surrounding their outside seating area. In other words, the needs and comforts of smokers are well and truly catered for. Also catered for are the needs of the non-smokers who have the whole of the inside of the building ... in which to enjoy their self-imposed segregation, if they so wish.
I have written about this before, but Peter's article reminds me of the time that Forest sent a delegation of smokers to Paris in order to escape No Smoking Day in Britain.
We chose Paris because, in those days, the French capital thoroughly deserved the title 'European capital of smoking'. Our little group - which included Lord Harris of High Cross and Judith Hatton, authors of Murder A Cigarette, and Bob Shields of the Daily Record - travelled by Eurostar (which still had smoking coaches) and was met at Gare du Nord by representatives from a smokers' rights group in France.
Lunch took place at a restaurant used, appropriately, by the Resistance during the Second World War, and the entire day was a great success.
Whether Paris remains the European capital of smoking is arguable. In 2011 Prague and Budapest are obvious rivals, but read Peter's article and make up your own mind. Comments welcome.
PS. I wish I could find Bob Shields' report. With photographs, it occupied a double-page spread and was very, very funny. Unfortunately it was eleven years ago and I can't find a copy anywhere.