Paris to trial smoke-free public parks

As part of a plan to fight the notorious French addiction to cigarettes, a park in Paris will soon be off limits to smokers. If the trial proves popular it could pave the way for smoking to be banned in all public parks, which is the wish of the government.

Paris to trial smoke-free public parks
Smokers soon won't be able to light up in one Paris park. Photo: Nicolasnova/Flickr

Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced Paris is going to roll out a pilot tobacco ban in one of the City of Light’s parks with the intent of “teaching the public about addictions.”

Hidalgo, mindful of the historic French love of tobacco, was careful to note in an interview that the ban won’t apply to all parks, but rather amounts to “an experiment in a park where we will do some teaching about addictions.”

Though she refused to say which green space will see cigarettes outlawed, French daily Le Parisien reported that a playground in the 14th arrondissement will be the guinea pig. The trial comes just after a Paris municipal councillor put forward a law that would ban smoking on all the neighborhood’s playgrounds.

Hidalgo's experiment also comes after Health Minister Marisol Touraine made it clear that she would like to see cigarettes banned on all beaches, public parks and even on pavements outside schools.

In an interview in July last year Touraine said: "is it normal for mothers, fathers or nannies to smoke in a public park where children play."

“I want towns and cities to move in this direction through discussions and create non-smoking spaces, whether parks, university campuses or beaches,” said the minister.

Perhaps the idea that Paris would consider shutting down smoking in parks isn’t that shocking. First there’s the public cleanliness issue. The city's army of street sweepers clean up 350 tonnes of cigarette butts per year, Mayor Hidalgo said.

But even more pressing is the matter of public health. Though the French are among the trimmest and longest living Europeans, 200 of them die every day or 73,000 a year due to the effects of smoking.

France has tightened the screws on smokers in recent years as part of effort to deal with the the problems caused by smoking.

Ever increasing taxes have pushed the price of a pack of cigarettes up to as much as €7 for certain brands.

French bars and cafés have also been diligent about enforcing a 2008 ban on indoor smoking, though that rule has also led to a proliferation of outdoor smoking areas, which led to accusations that many venues were flouting the law. In June last year France's top appeals court tried to lay down the law by setting the rules for smoking in covered areas and terraces.

It's not just traditional cigarettes that France is looking to crackdown on. In April this year the French government reaffirmed its desire to ban e-cigarettes in certain public places and make the devices subject to the same laws as tobacco.

Currently people can freely use e-cigarettes in bars and restaurants, where traditional smoking is banned, as well as at work.

At present, employers have discretion as to whether or not to allow the use of e-cigarettes by employees.

The new legislation on e-cigarettes is set to be included as part of a health bill that will be published this summer.

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