While getting ready to go out Thursday night with my roommate, her boyfriend, and their French/Brazilian/Moroccan entourage, I had a moment of sheer panic when I pictured myself in a small, crowded Parisian bar attempting in vain to enjoy a glass of vin rouge amid a haze of Gauloises smoke. I worried that my hair and clothes were now going to reek, and without easy access to a washer and dryer like back home, and with only a suitcase's worth of clean clothes to choose from once these ones were ruined...well, this was just going to be a disaster. But just as quickly as the panic arrived, it left. I suddenly remembered that earlier this year France joined other forward-thinking countries and states (Italy, Ireland, New York, California, my own Minnesota) by banning smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants. Vive la France!
There was no such ban during my first trip to France in the fall of 2001. Bars were smoky, cafés were worse, and I even watched in disbelief as clients brought cigarettes into such public places as shopping malls. Of course, I was a bit younger then and better able to tolerate such unpleasantries as a second-hand smoker's cough. Age and the simple fact of living in non-smoking environments (DC went smoke-free too!) have made me terribly conscious of cigarette smoke. Needless to say, France's smoking ban came just in the knick of time.
As for my Thursday night out, the sangria was delicious, the company was delightful, and I left with nary a wisp of smoke in my freshly-washed hair.