On days when I’m truly bored, I cruise the conservative blogs.. you know the ones whose sole disagreement with the Bush administration is that Harriet Miers isn’t conservative enough. I’ve found one interesting pattern, which surely many have noticed: a good red flag that a blog is nutty is an unprovoked, instinctive, and consistent ridiculing of France. There was a plot to bomb the Paris subway? That’ll teach the French! It’s quite funny, really. Like a wingnut litmus test.
That said, there are, of course, plenty of good reasons to criticize the French, just as there are plenty of reasons to criticize other nations for their mistakes. The one issue that continued to boggle my mind on my recent trip to Paris is the French’s insane attitude towards smoking. There’s simply no way to evade the second-hand smoke. Though restaurants have mandatory non-smoking sections since 1991, there seems to be either no regulation or enforcement on isolating that non-smoking section in any way: in all likelihood, the non-smoking section is a single table squeezed between two smoking sections.
It’s more than just regulation, too: it’s the fact that so many French people actually smoke (more than 30%). A smoking section is always packed with smokers. For a country that prides itself on a strong, community-focused health system, it’s a bit of a contradiction. After all, there’s a certain amount of irony to sitting at a cafe, discussing the potential ill effects of genetically modified foods, all the while blowing well known carcinogens in everyone’s face.
Finally, there’s some legislative movement towards banning smoking in public spaces. It’s about time.
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