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I've been unable to find an accurate explanation of French law regarding smoking.

I last visited Paris over 10 years ago, and remember it being fairly normal to be able to smoke both in bars, and on the outside-areas of cafés.

I've been googling around lately, and I'm not surprised that smoking indoors is now banned, much like everywhere else in Europe, but I was wondering what the legality of sitting outside a café in Paris, but on their property, yet on the sidewalk/pavement/whatever.

I see a lot of references to public places, but not actually qualifying whether they're indoor public places (understandable ban), or if this includes the streets (which are public, but decidedly outdoors).

Can anyone enlighten me as to where it is legal to smoke in Paris, in general?

  • Why do you fear this is going to get downvoted? – gerrit Feb 4 '14 at 18:09
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    Because smoking is so frowned upon.. – Tom O'Connor Feb 4 '14 at 18:31
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    @TomO'Connor That doesn't make it an invalid or off-topic question – Karlson Feb 4 '14 at 18:34
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    I come from Serverfault, I'm far more cautious about being downvoted ;-) – Tom O'Connor Feb 4 '14 at 18:41
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    @TomO'Connor From nowhere in your question is apparent if your preference is a smoking or a non-smoking place. You're asking for facts that are equally (or perhaps even more) interesting for non-smokers. – gerrit Feb 4 '14 at 21:52
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Basically, in France, smoking is forbidden indoors except in private places and allowed outdoors.

The law changed considerably around 2007–2008, so if you last came to France over 10 years ago, the situation then has nothing to do with the situation now.

Smoking is forbidden in covered spaces in government and other public buildings, in public transport (not including taxis if the driver and the passenger agree), in workplaces, in shops.

There can be rooms dedicated to smokers, with proper ventilation; these must essentially be rooms dedicated to smoking. For example, restaurants may not serve food or drinks in the smoking area. Smoking is always forbidden on a factory floor, in a meeting room or in someone's office.

The law does not restrict smoking outside. The owner of the premises may forbid smoking on the land that he owns, but this is rare.

As a tourist, this means you may smoke in the street and or sitting outside at a café. You may not smoke in a bar.

There is a more detailed presentation of the rules on the French government website (in French only).

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    FYI, smoking is forbidden in train stations (even in open sky stations), but nobody seem to care about it. I've seen people smoke, even in underground stations and subways. – Clockwork Oct 13 '18 at 19:31
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    Hi Gilles! I can't access that FAQ link on my Firefox browser. I didn't know if it's because I'm in the United States, or if it has moved. I'd like to be able to read it, especially if it shows any changes since the time you wrote this excellent answer. I know those laws are changing all the time around the world. Would you mind checking it, and letting me know? If not, that's fine too! I know you're busy! Thanks! – Sue Dec 19 '18 at 3:03
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    @Sue Thanks for letting me know. That page has gone and isn't in the Wayback Machine. I've replaced the link by another one on the same topic which doesn't seem to have exactly the same content. – Gilles Dec 19 '18 at 21:33
  • @Gilles, this is great, thanks! When I clicked on the new link, a pop-up window on the bottom gave the option to translate it into many different languages. I'm using Chrome, so it may have come from Google rather than the actual site, but I was happy to find it! – Sue Dec 19 '18 at 22:34

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