Paris experiments with smoking ban in six public parks

Eric Feferberg, AFP | A man lights a cigarette with a lighter on September 6, 2012 in Paris

A new measure prohibiting smoking in six public parks across Paris has raised the question: Will the Parisians respect it?


The ban, which comes into effect on Tuesday, was voted by Paris city officials on July 10. Although it was originally meant to apply to four public parks, it has since been expanded to six.

The measure is part of a four-month “experiment” by the city to reduce smoking in public spaces. Instead of issuing a ticket or fine, park staff will be tasked with informing tobacco users that smoking is no longer allowed on the premises.

“More concretely, this measure will allow us to take on a real threat to public health by responding to the scourge of second-hand smoke, especially around children,” Pénélope Komitès, deputy mayor for municipal parks, said in a statement.

The Parc Georges Brassens, in the 15th arrondissement (or district) of Paris, is one of the gardens where the ban will be enforced. The choice is a somewhat ironic one, considering that the park’s namesake, legendary French musician Georges Brassens, was often photographed with a pipe in hand.

Smoking on a bench near the entrance, Christophe Bonnet said he was surprised to learn that his more than a pack-a-day habit would no longer be allowed there.

“I find it absurd that smoking in the open air won’t be permitted,” he told FRANCE 24, stubbing out his cigarette. “I don’t have the right to smoke in the park, but I can smoke in the street right next to the park?”

A park regular, Bonnet said that he planned to respect the rule, but didn’t see the point. “What does it change if no one smokes here at the end of four months?”

A 2013 study of similar bans in selected parks and beaches in Canada found that although tobacco use significantly decreased after a 12-month observation period, no venue was 100 percent smoke free. Meanwhile, another study published the same year by researchers at Columbia University concluded that there is little solid evidence of the public health benefits of smoking bans in parks, other than that they “denormalise” the act.

Redoïn Ouammer, who was picnicking with colleagues at the Parc Georges Brassens, was also unenthusiastic about the new ban. A pack-a-day smoker, he looked relieved to find out the park closest to his home on the other side of Paris was not one of the six affected.

“For me, it’s not a good idea. It’s just one more constraint on top of the 2007 law,” he said, referring to France’s ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and restaurants.

Like Bonnet, he said he would respect the rule wherever it applied. Other smokers at the Parc Georges Brassens, however, flatly dismissed the idea.

“It depends. If there’s a fine, then I’ll respect it,” Clément P. (who declined to give his last name), a frequent visitor to the park, said.

Seated in the grass next to Clément, Alice R. (who also declined to give her last name) agreed.

“It’s like when we bring beers to the park, officially alcohol is prohibited, but it’s tolerated,” she said. “If there’s no punishment, no fine, then it’s not going to change anything”.

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