France to Ban Smoking in Most Public Places

Paris -- France will ban smoking in most public places over the next 15 months, including hotels, restaurants, and bars, the French government announced yesterday.

The nationwide ban against smoking in such public places as stores, offices, transportation stations, and government buildings, including museums, will take effect Feb. 1, 2007, with the smoking ban at hospitality establishments to take place Jan. 1, 2008.

Smoking will still be allowed on public streets and other outdoor areas, and in hotel rooms.

Individuals who violate the ban will face fines of about $100 while property owners who tolerate smoking in their buildings will face fines totaling about $200.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced the ban on television yesterday, calling it a public necessity. More than 60,000 people die annually in France from smoking-related illnesses, with an estimated 5,000 people additionally dying from second-hand smoke.

The trend for governments to ban smoking nationwide started with Ireland, in 2004. Italy, Sweden, Scotland, Norway, and Spain have since imposed their own bans to varying degrees. Britain, Belgium, and Portugal are expected to curtail smoking in public places within the next several months.