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Smoking ban hits France!!

PARIS (AFP) - - French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot stubbed out hopes of a last minute reprieve on the eve of the introduction Tuesday of a smoking ban in bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

"There will be no relaxing of the law," she said in an interview published in the daily Parisian.

However she was more conciliatory about enforcement of the law on New Year's day, indicating most revellers will unlikely be faced with being told to stub out their cigarettes and cigars at the stroke of midnight or risk a fine.

"I urge everyone to apply the law from tomorrow morning. If some want to wait until January 2, we will be tolerant," said the minister.

Bachelot noted that the introduction of smoking bans were actually a boon for cafes and bars in Ireland and Scotland, were business increased by seven and 11 percent respectively.

"Our objective isn't to annoy people, but to protect them. We shouldn't forget that every year 66,000 deaths are caused from smoking and 5,000 from second-hand smoke," said the minister.

Under France's anti-smoking law -- a ban on smoking in public places went into effect in February -- smokers face fines up to 450 euros (645 dollars) while business owners may face penalties of up to 750 euros.

Bars and restaurants were given an extra 11 months to install separate smoking areas with ventilators, but few have faced the large renovation and equipment costs.


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