Adieu to the City of Lighters

By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It may be hard to believe, but I was a restaurant critic when I worked in Paris for the European edition of the Herald Tribune in the 1950s.

I was there when Paris was burning. That is to say, every Frenchman and woman filled the cafes and dining rooms with smoke all day.

The French Parliament is now discussing whether to ban smoking in restaurants, bars, cafes and the Eiffel Tower.

France could become a smoke-free country.

For all of us, the cigarette or cigar was the best way to end a fantastic meal.

The French have a saying, "A day without tobacco is like a day without sunshine."

The French, being the French, are very contrary about smoking. One branch of the government sold Gauloise, as well as other tobacco products, as a means of collecting tax money.

Another part of the government had an advertising campaign proclaiming that smoking was dangerous to your health.

In the good old days, I smoked cigars -- six to 10 a day.

I thought nothing of lighting up a Havana after a meal in a good restaurant.

Sometimes when I was sitting next to an American tourist, he would say, "Do you mind putting out that cigar?" Or, "Put the damn thing out! You are making my wife sick."

I sized him up. And if he was bigger than I was, I put it out.

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