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France to ban smoking in forests, because of wildfire risk

The Local France
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France to ban smoking in forests, because of wildfire risk
Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP

The French parliament has approved a proposal to ban smoking with 200 metres of a forest, due to the increasing risk of wildfires.

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Forest fires are becoming an increasing problem in France, due to the climate crisis, with the areas affected getting larger and the risk period longer.

The government is therefore preparing a bill of wildfire prevention measures, and on Wednesday the Assemblée nationale adopted an amendment that bans smoking within 200m of a forest during a period of wildfire risk.

The majority of wildfires in France are caused by humans, with discarded cigarette butts a major risk.

The Forest Code already allows local authorities to impose extra measures during periods of high risk, which can include smoking bans, but the new law would generalise a smoking ban during any time that is denoted as a 'risk period'.

This is generally over the summer, but it remains the responsibility of local authorities to declare a risk.

It is already illegal to light fires in the woods, and camping bans are frequently brought in during wildfire risk periods.

Last year a total area of 72,000 hectares burned in France - an area seven times the size of Paris. With many parts of the country already on drought alert and another hot summer forecast, authorities fear similar devastation this year.

While the south of France has long seen wildfires, the summer of 2022 saw fires also break out in the north and east of the country - overall 90 of mainland France's 96 départements reported at least one wildfire.

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A UN report projects that wildfires in Europe will increase by 30 percent by 2050.

Other measures in the bill include strengthen the rules for homeowners to keep the area around their properties clear of brush and vegetation - this is already a legal obligation, but at present enforcement is poor.

READ ALSO Wildfire prevention: The legal obligations for French property owners

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