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Christophe Cedat protests France's smoking ban by experimenting on himself.
“I am not a crazy adventurer,” Cedat said. “I have two kids, and my business is thriving.” A cardiologist and a psychologist have been monitoring him, he added. And he actually reduced his daily cigarette intake by half a pack after his doctor told him that he might die from a cardiac spasm if he kept smoking two packs a day.
Cedat intends to defend smokers’ rights, even though he was not one of them just four months ago.
“The issue with tobacco,” he said, “is that there are about 15 million smokers in France, you can’t treat them so harshly. I don’t understand why this law is so strict, when in other areas things are much more flexible.”
His cafe is now among France's few smoking bars. He got around the ban by building a large, covered terrace.
“I am an explorer,” Cedat said. “My cafe, for instance, is a fantastic social lab.”
Some of the young smokers whose rights Cedat is defending have actually discovered social benefits in the smoking ban.
The Mad Maker Pub near the Sorbonne University is one of Paris’ few bars with a smoking room. But on a recent day the smoking room was empty. Instead, a group of students was smoking on the sidewalk.
“It’s too cold in the smoking room,” said Gaetan Bialet, “so we prefer smoking outside.”
“It is not nice when you go somewhere and there is too much smoke,” said Nicolas Morin. “I was in Madrid last week and even at the airport they have smoking corners, it stank seriously — I understand non-smokers.”
According to Morin, the ban has helped to bring people together, in an age where people easily socialize online with strangers, but rarely talk to the person sitting next to them on the bus. Now, strangers smoking together outside will strike up conversation.
“There is also the flirting corner factor,” said Morin, “smoking helps you get closer to other people. Before, you could smoke a fag at your table, now you meet new people because you need to go outside to smoke.”