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Christophe Cedat protests France's smoking ban by experimenting on himself.
PARIS, France — It only takes a short walk in the narrow streets of Paris to understand that smoking is an essential part of French culture, where it is tradition to light up while sitting outside a cafe. The word "cigarette" is even French in origin.
So it was a shock when France eventually decided to do what so many other Western countries had done years before: ban smoking in restaurants and cafes. That happened two years ago and the protests continue. There are multiple websites that purport to help smokers find French cafes where they can light up, for example. But one man has taken his protest to a higher level.
In January of 2010, Christophe Cedat, owner of the Cafe 203 in Lyon, set out to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day — just to see what it would to do to his body. Cedat, who is in his 40s, had not smoked in decades. He is documenting his experience on the www.demainjecommence.com ("tomorrowistart.com") with graphics showing the number of cigarettes he has smoked since January, and updates on his physical and mental health.
Ironically, prior to the smoking ban Cedat had opened one of France’s first non-smoking cafes. Fast-forward to today and he has a mini-van filled with thousands of cigarette butts, which he displays like a work of art. But Cedat said he is not out for publicity.
Cedat's van, where he saves the cigarette butts from his two-packs-a-day experiment. (Courtesy of Christophe Cedat))
“I do it to feel what it’s like to be a smoker,” he said. “I wanted to experiment the daily life of a smoker. It is a social activity, smokers give cigarettes to each others, you know, they lend their lighters.”
Of course to keep up his experiment, Cedat needs to smoke even when he doesn’t feel like it. But he said that there are three cigarettes that he always enjoys: “the first one in the morning, then after coffee and after dinner. These give rhythm to your day, they are like little rewards.”
But isn't he worried about his health?