We have just returned from a superb weekend in Paris.

I love Europe and, despite sleaze balls like Chirac, I love ze French. I find them friendly; their food is fantastic; they’re very professional; they’re proud yet socially responsible and compassionate; their children are well behaved (much more than the Poms, for instance) and their rugby team plays the most watchable rugby (apart from the Boks, of course) in the world.

But the one thing I cannot stand about the French is their smoking culture. This is a first world country where human rights are extremely important and their education is first rate, yet EVERYBODY SMOKES. Old people, middle aged people, young adults and even teenagers – all huffing and puffing away, ready for lung cancer by 55. Also, in the US and UK it tends to be people in lower socio-economic groups that smoke, whereas in France the whole spectrum is covered. I simply don’t think that with all their education they have an excuse.

This is not even mentioning all the other evils associated with smoking like passive smoking and littering. I saw two upper middle class parents with their two pre-teen daughters all bunched up on a park bench. Nothing untoward about this, except that both parents were CHAIN SMOKING!! They showed no regard for their own children. I find this absolutely appalling. I also saw many people using litter bins for Coke cans, orange peels, crisp packets, but throwing their cigarette butts on the grass – as if this does not constitute litter!

We had dinner at this very nice French restaurant on the Champs-EllysTes. The whole restaurant probably had about 50 tables. There were 4 tables in the non-smoking section!!

This is not only a French thing though. In Spain it is worse and in Germany it is not much better.