France - some smokers are flaunting the ban on smoking..

December 27, 2009 - France Introduced a Nationwide Smoking Ban January 1, 2008.. When France outlawed smoking in public places three years ago, residents took the news remarkably — almost shockingly — well. Almost overnight, cigarettes vanished from offices, restaurants, cafés and train stations as the French dutifully took their glowing butts outside — the only place where smoking was still permitted. But this being France, a backlash was almost certainly inevitable. According to a report released on December 17th by an anti-smoking group, the initial obeisance of French smokers has now given way to people increasingly flaunting the law by lighting up indoors.

The Non-Smokers' Rights (NSR) association says it has collected data and evidence showing that the ban on smoking in the workplace is currently being violated far more than it was when the law came into effect in 2007. Studies show that complaints by people of exposure to second-hand smoke at work, which dropped from nearly 43% in 2006 to just 9% the following year, has now gone back up to 21%, according to NSR. The reason? Widespread government enforcement of the law never materialized as expected, leaving employers and workers less worried about being fined nearly $200 per infraction. Some employees now light up at their desks or by the coffee machine instead of joining their shivering colleagues outside, and many bosses turn a blind eye to it.

"The clear lack of inspection or punishment has inspired a small minority of smokers to ignore the ban — a lead that a growing number of their co-workers are deciding to follow," says Rémi Parola, a NSR official. "The law was effective in getting people to accept non-smoking as the legal and social norm, and that's now being slowly eroded."

And it's not just happening at work. NSR says non-enforcement is giving defiant smokers the courage to light up in other public areas. Some smokers now routinely puff away in bars or cafés and self-policing owners and managers are often hesitant to tell them to stop out of fear they'll anger paying clients. Worse still, NSR says, are the enclosed terraces proliferating outside cafes and restaurants across France. The temporary glass or plastic structures were initially set up to keep customers warm so they can enjoy an "outside" café experience in chilly weather. But when smokers were forced outside, these terraces became de facto smoking zones that other patrons now have to cross to get indoors. NSR contends that the smoke also drifts inside — it says it has conducted tests showing that the air in establishments with covered smoking terraces is three times as toxic as in restaurants and cafés without them. (See the top green ideas of the year.)

If smokers become bolder about lighting up indoors, however, non-smokers may begin demanding greater action from authorities. Even Parola acknowledges that second-hand smoke levels have vastly improved since the ban went into effect, saying his group's current campaign is only aimed at improving enforcement enough to prevent a gradual return to 2006 habits.

Even though there are costs associated with enforcement, the government will probably still come out ahead —officials estimate that the state spends about $15 billion a year treating smoking-related illnesses. Stamping out a few butts could amount to very little in comparison.

From the TIME photo gallery - old tobacco ads..

A few related news briefs;
Cigarette sales in France dropped to a record low in 2008..;
French researchers announced a striking 15% decrease in admissions of patients with myocardial infarction to emergency wards since the public ban on smoking came into effect..;
France - cheaper cigarettes close by in Belgium...

Reference: Smoking Ban? The French Light Up Again in Public by Bruce Crumley - Paris, TIME, 12/26/2009.