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Last Updated: Friday, 28 December 2007, 16:16 GMT
French cafes set to ban smoking
A girl in a Paris cafe (file image)
France is transforming the image of traditional smoke-filled cafes
France is poised to extend its smoking ban to bars, cafes, restaurants and discos, but the measure will not be enforced fully until 2 January.

The health ministry said smokers would be allowed a 24-hour "grace" period for the New Year festivities.

The ban, which will also cover casinos and hotels, comes on top of a partial ban on smoking in public places that took effect in February.

Similar bans are already in place in Britain, Ireland, Italy and Spain.

The French health ministry said the wider ban, due to take effect on 1 January, would not be monitored strictly during the New Year festivities, in a gesture of "tolerance".

Any smoker caught flouting the ban thereafter faces a 450-euro (332; $662) fine, while those who turn a blind eye to smokers on their premises can be fined up to 750 euros.

France has about 13.5 million smokers among its population of 60.7 million.

In February smoking became outlawed in French airports, railway stations, hospitals, schools, shops and offices.

The new ban is seen as a big cultural shift for France, where smoky cafes have long been the haunts of famous artists and philosophers. The ban does not include pavement tables or open-air terraces.

In 2004, Ireland became the first European country to introduce a comprehensive smoking ban in all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants.

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