Businesses foresee slowdown as smoking ban takes effect
in cafes, bars and restaurants

PARIS - Nonsmokers reveled. Some smokers grumbled. But others pondered kicking the habit as France's smoking ban went into effect Tuesday with the start of the new year.

Owners of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cafes, where smoking is now prohibited, worried it would be bad for business.

Newly hung no-smoking signs dotted the entrance and walls of the Cafe Elysees, off Paris' celebrated Champs-Elysees avenue, and staffers bundled up against the cold for sidewalk smoke breaks. Client Pierre Morgon, 22, praised the ban, saying the cafe's clean air allowed him to better appreciate the food.

'Today's filet mignon tastes richer than it did yesterday,' the Cafe Elysees regular said with a sly smile.

French officials gave smokers a New Year's day reprieve, saying they would only start enforcing the ban on Wednesday. But many Paris cafes and restaurants had already gone smoke-free.

Eight states in neighboring Germany also launched restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants, though the measures were generally more flexible than in France.

Under France's ban, those caught lighting up inside face a $93 fine, while owners who turn a blind eye to smoking in their establishments face a $198 fine.

Restaurateurs and cafe personnel say the ban forces them to police their clients and insist it will slice into their revenues.

'Once they start enforcing the ban, this place will be empty,' Aiglement said.

Loic Chardonnay, a 22-year-old waiter at the Cafe Elysees, said he expected business to slow down for several months.

'But it'll pick up once we French get used to it,' he predicted, pointing to the success of smoking bans in Spain and Italy.