Essentials > Health & Safety >Smoking & Drinking


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Parisians smoke. People visiting Paris smoke (especially refugees from California). There's a lot of smoke. Get used to it, or just resign yourself to seeking out the places that are less smoky (or at least better ventilated).


The new “Loi Anti-Tabac” (anti-tobacco law), voted into law October 16, will take effect in February 2007 for all public places except restaurants, bars-tabacs, and nightclubs, which have until 2008. Hotels will all be non-smoking, which the managers like because they won’t have to pay the costs of cleaning the smoke and burn marks, but many are worried about enforcement. To calm the irate bar owners, the government announced they would lower the taxes on bar games like pinball and foozball, which were so high many bars removed them.

Here’s an interesting article in English on the subject (in response to the sex question in the article…his bar allows sex?)

Everyone seems to think it will ruin business, but no other city has been affected by the ban (Rome , Dublin , NY , LA, Amsterdam , etc.). In fact, I think more people will go out and stay out longer when they can breathe. My friend and I were recently at a club that has no cover charge. We had a drink before two bands played, but by the time they finished it was so packed with smokers around the bar that we had to eventually push our way out to get some air…then just decided to go home. Also, having been a bartender (and thus a heavy second-hand smoker), I noticed that no one can just have empty hands in a bar: if they can’t hold a cigarette, they’ll probably go get another drink. Good thing hardly anyone who lives in Paris has to drive home!


The French, even university age students, don't engage in the excessive drinking habits of their Anglophone counterparts. That's why so many student bars in Paris are English, Australian, or American!

The legal drinking age in France is 16 years for wine and beer, 18 years for spirits and liquor. Young teens drinking wine is tolerated if they're with their parents.

You can buy alcohol in any supermarket, convenience store (but only untill 11pm, I think), or wine boutique. Some restaurants only have a license to serve acohol with food.

There are no "open container" laws, so you can drink your wine on the banks of the Seine (don't forget the corkscrew and glasses), but drunk and disorderly conduct will get you arrested and fined.

Drinking and driving is a crime in France. The limit is 0.5 g of alcohol per litre of blood, which is approximately the equivalent of 3 halfpints of beer, 2 glasses of wine or 3 glasses of champagne foran adult male. 

Import Rules: Allowances for Alcohol and Tobacco

Persons living in a Member State of the European Union are not restricted in regard to purchasing goods for private use, but the recommended allowances for alcoholic beverages and tobacco are as follows: 3200 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 3 kg of smoking tobacco, 110 litres of beer, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine, 20 litres of fortified wine i.e. port or sherry. Americans are allowed to bring in one liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes duty free; after that you'll have to pay duties.

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