A Parisian smokes his cigar in the cold outside of Les Deux Magots, a famed Left Bank cafe that's now smoke free.
PARIS - What's that smell? For drinkers and diners in France yesterday, the answer was fresh air.
France's new ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants, and night spots is the most drastic measure yet to curb the habit in a country where cigarettes had been a potent lifestyle symbol.
Some diehard smokers blamed health-obsessed Americans for starting the trend. But others were delighted they could sip or serve a strong espresso without finishing the day with clothes smelling of secondhand smoke.
"It's a new art of living," Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot insisted while at a cafe.
France joined those European countries and more than two dozen U.S. states that have enacted anti-smoking restrictions. In 1994, California was the first state to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.
In France, a New Year's Day reprieve allowed revelers their last, legal, public drags before the law took effect, the latest measure in a crackdown that began 15 years ago.
Some called it the end of an era in a nation that has portrayed the cigarette as a sign of freedom, rebellion, individualism, or even intellect.
"They're banning tobacco practically like it's cocaine," said Jean-Yves Oussedik, drawing on his pipe and braving a near-freezing chill on the sidewalk terrace of cafe Les Deux Magots, a famed Left Bank institution. Outdoors is now the only place where smoking is allowed at cafes.
Personalities like author Albert Camus and thinker Jean-Paul Sartre smoked cigarettes and pipes in the warm interior of Les Deux Magots, once a gathering place for literati. The more than century-old establishment has forced smokers outside since February, when smoking was banned in offices, train stations, and other public places.
But has it lost its soul? "No," a longtime waiter named Gilles said. "On the contrary, we are breathing."
Under the measure, those caught lighting up inside face a fine of more than $90, while owners who turn a blind eye to smoking face a fine of nearly $200.