Everyone smokes in Paris! Everyone. All the time. Even the American students are smoking outside the school buildings in between classes. How does everyone function with the cloud of smoke constantly swirling around their skulls?
My head seems to always be spinning from all the exposure. My nose hurts and I always feel dehydrated. People are always smoking outside my window, even next to me in restaurants! I saw a young French man carrying his infant daughter in one hand, and a lit cigarette in the other. Couples sit gazing into each others’ eyes, stopping every few moments to take a puff from the stick in their hand.
In order to convince my mom to quit smoking, I have done research on the lasting, damaging effects of second-hand smoke. I have read numerous studies that warn against exposing anyone, especially children or those with weakened immune systems, to second-hand smoke. But I was shocked to read that as bad as it is for humans to be exposed to a cigarette, it is nearly five times more deadly for canines. Everyone has their little petit chiens here, carrying them in their Louis Vuitton cases or trotting them along on a leash; even letting them sit on their laps in restaurants! As much of a staple as the presence of a pooch is to the Parisian people, I can’t help but wonder if they realize the damage they are doing to their furry companion by lighting up right next to them.
And how do they enjoy their food? I have literally seen people alternate with a fork in one hand and a cigarette in the other. For as much as the French people enjoy their leisure time and their two hour lunches of gourmet dishes, they seem to be diminishing their atmosphere a great deal by surrounding themselves in a grey haze.
I used to think it was glamorous to be seen with cigarettes, or with an elegant cigarette holder like Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmations or Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. My cousins and I even used to buy little candy cigarettes and hold them in our mouths as we walked down the street, pretending to puff away.
Now, the smell makes me nauseous. You can smell smoke on a smoker- their clothes, their hair, their hands all reek of stale tobacco. It doesn’t look cool- it looks trashy and low class. Even the chicest French city-dweller immediately becomes an ignorant, uneducated outcast as soon as I spot a cigarette in their hand.
Forget tobacco advertising, the role of the media, the surgeon general’s waning, lung cancer patients smoking next to their oxygen tanks. The dizziness of all these little cancer sticks has depleted my energy level for those arguments. But how do people do it all the time here, and claim to be so modern, and progressive, and worldly? There are recycling bins on every street; cyclists on every sidewalk; why are they going against everything else in their nature by lighting all day?