How bad is the smoking in Paris?
October 31, 2012 7:05 PM   Subscribe

So, SuperAwesomeGirl and I want to got France for a short vaca. I HATE cigarette smoke and she is incapacitatingly allergic to it - like - walk through a cloud of cig smoke and cough so bad she can't walk for a few minutes. Will we hate our time in Paris?

We were recently (yeah us!) in Italy and the smoking was bad, but tolerable. I understand that French folk, especially city folk smoke much more.

If you have recent experience - assume that any smoke you can smell would be enough to affect her to some extent. Can we enjoy Paris at all?
posted by BrooksCooper to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I spent ten days in Paris this past June and found the smoke only slightly worse than in (arbitrary large American city).
posted by likedoomsday at 7:27 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was just there in July.

It's nothing like it used to be--you can no longer smoke indoors in restaurants, so you might find it similar to a major city in the US where you have to walk past the patio smokers to get into the fresh air, but inside is fresh air.

I really found it to be astonishingly less smokey than my previous trips, ten and twenty years ago. I mean, yeah, people still smoke a lot there compared to a lot of places in the US, but it's no longer impossible to avoid, and since you will not have to worry about it indoors you will find it very easy to work around.
posted by padraigin at 7:28 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was in Paris earlier this year and found it so much better than my previous visit about seven years ago. Since that visit I've developed asthma and am much more sensitive to smoke than previously and it didn't bother me at all.
posted by marylynn at 7:31 PM on October 31, 2012

I was there a couple of months ago. I also hate cigarette smoke and am particularly averse to coming home with clothing that smells like cigarettes. Compared to previous trips (2006, 2007) over the last few years I've experienced nothing like that in Paris. Certainly no clouds of smoke to walk through. There is a ban on smoking in public transport, restaurants, bars, museums, malls, etc. There are dedicated smoking rooms with separate ventilation, but they must be somewhat rare since I've never seen one.

Besides, it's Paris. Of course you'll enjoy it.
posted by halogen at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2012

I was in Paris in February (so a lot of time spent indoors at cafes) and never actually had to leave. There are smokers outside, but it's easy to get around them. Some bars will be worse than others, but you really shouldn't have an issue. (I did find it worse than Rome, or at least more public--more parents smoking around kids.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:10 PM on October 31, 2012

Thanks all! Looks like we are off to Paris!
posted by BrooksCooper at 8:12 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in Paris last summer. I hate the smell of smoke, and I don't really remember being bothered by it at all. We didn't go into any clubs though. . .we did mostly touristy things.
posted by sherlockt at 9:09 PM on October 31, 2012

Paris should be okay, but if you decide to take any trips to the country, especially via train, watch out. I lived in the north-east for a while and every single time I was on a train platform there were inevitably at least a half dozen people smoking.
posted by Tamanna at 10:41 PM on October 31, 2012

I'll think you'll be fine. Was there in October, no smoking indoors and not much on the street either actually.

You might want to check and double-check your hotel though. Most places are non-smoking these days. But I've heard about smaller/older hotels that still have a lingering smell of nicotine in their rooms.

Have fun! Enjoy you baguettes and croissants.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 10:52 PM on October 31, 2012

I hate and am allergic to cigarette smoke too. Before my first pre ban trip to Paris I read in a book about French culture that they didn't smoke WHILE they were eating and that generally seemed to be the case.

I LOVE Paris! Get a chocolat chaud at Cafe Angelina for me!
posted by brujita at 11:52 PM on October 31, 2012

You described me perfectly except I live here! The cigarette situation is definitely a lot better than it used to be, but leaves a lot to be desired. Below are some of my observations and "survival strategies."

- The French may not smoke while eating, but they sure love to smoke at restaurants. And once one lights up, the others follow whether at the same table or another one. Because smoking inside is not really done anymore, all of the smokers are outside. Patio dining should be undertaken knowing that many of your neighbors smoke. I tend to go on off-hours: be the first-in or last-out if I want to eat outside.
- About restaurants "not really" for smoking. A lot of restaurants have tables up against large sliding door windows. Your table and chair are inside, your cigarette is outside. Great :(
- Train stations: arrgh! People usually don't smoke in the main lobby (an improvement), but all over the platforms, in the train doors before they leave, and in a big cluster outside the station (if the weather is good) or in the entrance (if it is not). Bring a scarf for warmth and impromptu air filtration. People sometimes smoke on the RER but they are jerks.
- A lot of places that used to allow smoking still smell smoky. Whether it is leftover stank, or from surreptitious violations, I don't know. But a "non-smoking" hotel room can certainly still have the je ne sais quoi about it. Do what you can to know the situation when you make reservations: ask questions, explain it is a medical condition, don't be afraid to say no.
- If it is later at night, and people are jamming at the bars and sitting in the cafes, I often walk in the middle of the street. Obviously not for major boulevards, but otherwise a clear path with fresh air.

I don't know where people are going in Paris that they do not notice many smokers, or think it is similar to large American cities. I definitely noticed on a return visit to the US (Boston) that Boston smelled a lot better. In Paris I also notice that if I try to pass one person's fug I usually end up behind another one...
posted by whatzit at 1:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

From experience, it's about the same level as Italy, perhaps a little better. Certainly, like almost everywhere in the world, the smoking is a lot more tolerable than it was years ago. Go for it, I say.
posted by outlier at 1:59 AM on November 1, 2012

I am noticeably, but not cripplingly, allergic to cigarette smoke and I was in Paris two months ago. It is not as smoky as it was ten years ago, but noticeably smokier than any city I have ever been to in the U.S. I didn't try hard to avoid groups of smokers, but I had mild allergies all week. Outdoor cafes-- one of Paris's charms-- are the worst. It will probably be fine, but you shouldn't assume you'll just be able to go wherever you want whenever you want.
posted by willbaude at 3:45 AM on November 1, 2012

I cannot stand smoking, and would always get up from the table if someone started smoking nearby.

- Most cafe's and restaurants, you need to be aware that people will start smoking outside. Try and sit upwind, if there is any breeze (lick a finger, hold it up, and sit on the side that feels cold if you can't figure out which way it's going.) Sit indoors where possible if you can't sit upwind in a strong breeze.

- When walking around, walk where there's less people.

- Be careful in cheaper hotels - we mostly stay with family, so that was never a problem for me.

Enjoy your holiday!
posted by Ashlyth at 7:37 AM on November 1, 2012

One thing I would be concerned about is your hotel room. I'm not sure that they hotels have smoke-free rooms and I know that smoke lingers. You might want to go with an American Chain, if only for the fact that they may have smoke free rooms. YMMV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:18 AM on November 1, 2012

I can smell smoke coming from the car in front of me while driving. It's ridiculous.

I went to Paris in 2006, and it was fine. It was not noticeably worse than anywhere in the US.
posted by cnc at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2012

Yup the difference between Paris in 1999 and Paris in 2009 was DRASTIC. Far, far less smoky. That said, writers wax poetic about the "undefinable" scent of Paris, and verily, that scent seems functionally indistinguishable from ordinary city-funk to me...

Have a marvelous time!
posted by like_a_friend at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2012

I agree with the posters here, and I think you should go. But there *will* be some times when you can't get away from smoke, and those times won't be predictable in advance. (Example: I had a nightmarish only-theoretically-nonsmoking train ride in Germany.)

Luckily, there are (as my recent question here showed me) excellent lightweight masks for the times when you're caught in smoke. I didn't know it, but there's a huge range of options in between gas-mask land and flimsy-paper land.

I'm leaving tomorrow to travel in a much worse smoking culture than Western Europe (urban Vietnam). I will report on how well it worked to travel with the 8233s I mention in that thread. (And if I don't report back in this thread, feel free to memail or email me.)
posted by kalapierson at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2012

Incredibly, smoking was barely an issue in my trip, despite all the strong warnings I'd read. I think a consensus of this thread is that smoking culture is changing fast around the world! Western Europe was very significantly improved even across the several years between my most recent two visits, and strong smoking bans are passing in countries you'd never have guessed (Turkey, Poland, Ireland, Vietnam as of 2013).
posted by kalapierson at 5:34 AM on November 15, 2012

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