Smoking is Cool?

Walking around Perpignan is like watching a 1920s film; the women are beautiful, the people seem to be enjoying themselves and everyone is smoking a cigarette. In France, smoking is definitely in vogue. It appears that the French take the time to enjoy a smoke at every chance they get. People have a cigarette with their morning cup of espresso, as they walk to work, when they eat their lunch, over wine with friends, with their dinner and many more times in between.

At one point in America's history smoking was considered the cool thing to do; however, smoking has gone way down since the 1990s.

This is a result of many anti-smoking ads, surgeon generals' warnings and smoking bans across the nation. Nowadays, if you attempt to light up in a public place in the U.S. you will be met with many glares and possibly a few requests to put your cigarette out. If you somehow still have the desire to smoke, you are bombarded regularly with facts about how smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and makes your breath stink.

With all of this information available about the negative affects of smoking, one may wonder how it remains so popular in France. "It's cultural," exclaimed Barbara Gorrand, a reporter at Perpignan's local newspaper, L'independant. She explained how her grandmother, mother and sister all smoked and how she smokes too. She went on to say that there wasn't much information about the dangers of smoking in France until recent years, but even now it won't stop her. "This is so French," she said with a slight chuckle. "If you tell us not to do something we are going to do it."

Perhaps the French need a few more studies to be done before they put out the cigs for good, but some measures have been taken to curb smoking in Perpignan. Smokers were once allowed to smoke inside restaurants, as well as inside their place of work, but this is no longer the case. Smokers who want to have a cigarette with their meal must eat outside on the terrace, and if they need a cigarette at work, then they have to smoke it outside. These are small steps but it takes time to change an entire culture. This may be what the country needs to become a smoke-free France.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.