Sacre bleu! It’s the end of civilisation as Parisians know it. France, the country where people have for generations loved to take a good long drag at life, is now officially a no-smoking zone, the latest among the European countries to take such an extreme step in an attempt to get their citizens to stamp out the habit. Smokers in Paris have huffed, and they have puffed, for several months over what they see as the end of the spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité in the country. But this has made not a spot of difference to the French parliamentarians, who have decided to stick to their New Year resolution of stubbing out all resistance to the ban.
It’s easy to understand why the French are continuing to exercise their much Gauloised lungs in protest against such State-sponsored repression. For most people here, nicotine is joie de vivre itself. What would Parisian cafés be, after all, without a delightful haze to light up conversations on art, aesthetics and philosophy? And let’s not forget the historical connection. Nicotine, after all, got its very name from Jean Nicot, the 16th century French ambassador in Portugal, who is single-handedly responsible for having made tobacco consumption tres chic in his home country. Monsieur Nicot became a celebrity of sorts in France when he returned with the tobacco plant, making the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, an instant addict.
Nonetheless, the way things are looking for smokers across the world, the French too, it seems, will have no choice but to take a cigarette break.