MIREILLE’S MUSINGS: Illusion of a smokeless France

August 24, 2011

Well, my compatriots are not to be congratulated. A few developed countries keep reducing smoking since the “non smoking” law in public places happened, from the US to Ireland, Italy and more, but the French remain an anomaly even after finally adhering to no smoking in public places in 2008…in spite of 66,000 French dying every year from the poison. The latest results are shocking: 31.5% smoked in 2005 and 34% smoke today. What a sad state of affairs.

Repressive laws are made easy in France, even if slowly and weirdly…weren’t we the only country which did not make the law 100% non-smoking the first year as exceptions keep those bureaucrats busy! Well since 1991, various governments have made a few efforts with the Evin law, a cancer plan, price increase (the best way in my opinion), strong images on cigarette boxes, etc. Ok, they’ve been some positive elements: clothes don’t smell like cigarettes, people cough less, my French women friends and I can have wonderful meals in smoke-free dining rooms, some businesses have gained a clientele back, but basically it does not work as insidious elements are in the way (like the price, which is not high enough and has been twisted and actually lowered; shame on those in the government who play these funny dangerous games).

Who smokes and who does not anymore? It seems that many adults, particularly women (I know quite a few) or young parents, get it…finally quit via acupuncture or the patch or another help and realize the “gaining weight factor” was just another poor excuse. They’ve survived, done well and wonder why they “stupidly smoked” for so long….peer pressure? Too many bad role models? (The film industry alone is one of the worst offenders and continues to be—see the latest film with famous actresses I shall not name—giving the impression that smoking is cool, and so young girls are smoking more and starting younger). And, of course, the famous stress factor ,that so many claim only a cigarette will relax them! Pleazzze.

Education should and will help. It has to start early at school and at home. A famous, young and gorgeous actress who does not smoke, thank you, and now has two young kids, said in an interview that she grew up seeing her father (an Italian) smoke 3 packs a day and her mother (a French woman), still alive and super influential (shouldn’t that come with some responsibility? Apparently not…or at least smoking in the privacy of her home and refraining in public?), keeps up with her 2 packs at near 70 years old. You have guessed by now. And to make matters worse, she continues to accept making films where she smokes literally non-stop. Cool? We (French women who don’t smoke) think it’s stupid, selfish, irresponsible and also blame the stupid film industry for not being able to be creative and cool enough without cigarette smoking on the screen from beginning to end. When will it stop? The first step should be a huge price hike—but with Europe and free borders, I’m not sure it can work—and investing the advertising in education, as the government should realize that all those morbid messages on the packages have little impact. To be continued…welcome any new ideas.