A very large portion of French society smokes cigarettes. Anti-smoking consciousness is changing but very slowly. In 1992 a bill limiting smoking in public places was passed which polarized French society to some extent: the smokers vs. the non-smokers. All cafés and restaurants must provide clearly marked sections or areas for non-smokers. Most cafés have complied by assigning the worst areas and back tables for this purpose. Some cafés have simply placed signs in the window announcing that theirs is a smokers café, thereby discouraging the rare non-smoker from ever entering. Smoking, like drinking, eating or having sex, is integral to the French belief in the eminence of pleasure, plaisir; the act of pleasing and being pleased is essential to the French soul, and for many this still includes smoking.
Cigarettes can only be purchased in a tabac. They are not available in drug stores, gas stations or department stores. Some cafés sell cigarettes as a service to their customers. They will cost about 24 FF a pack in the cafés, 17-20 francs in the tabacs.
If you are a non-smoker, as many of you undoubtedly are, be prepared for a lot of smoke and an overall indifference to the rights of non-smokers. If the smoke has a pungent, unfamiliar odor this is because in France hard-core smokers often consume the classic, blue packed and filterless Gauloises or Gitanes, made of blonde, untoasted tobacco. Also, a number of people roll their own cigarettes. It´s cheaper.
Smoking is now forbidden in the métro too, although this has yet to be fully enforced. Due to the outlawing of cigarette advertising in French publications, television, and cinemas, tobacco companies have launched huge and somewhat perverse campaigns to keep their names at the fore of smokers´ lips. Camel has a travel agency. Marlboro offers its own line of clothes. Lucky Strikes, the naughtiest of the lot, plays on the reverse attractiveness of the banned, using the interdiction le tabac nuit È† la santé (tobacco consumption is harmful to your health) as a marketing lure.