I didn't realise till I read about it here on BBC that a smoking ban is being enforced in Paris. For the last two months, I've spent a huge amount of time in different cafes out here. Can't say that I've explored a lot of the arts, the nightlife or the sights, but the one thing I've done a lot of in Paris, is sit in cafes.
When I was in Boston, a significant chunk of my thesis was done sitting in various cafes (or coffeeshops). I work better with noise in the background, so cafes suit me fine if I want to sit for a few hours and do something specific. They're also a nice break from working from either home or an office. There were quite a few people like me (mainly students) who did the same thing, so it was pretty common to see people sitting in a coffeeshop, reading or working on their computers.
What those cafes lacked were people sitting around, doing nothing or people meeting for a coffee, a drink or a smoke. Cafes are such an inherent part of Paris, that they're everywhere one goes. I normally leave the University around 5, and depending on how I feel, I pick some neighbourhood and head out to a cafe with some stuff to read. It's interesting to notice the different characters in the cafes and the customers who frequent these places, especially as most of them are there straight after work. I found out recently that there's a law in Paris which says that if you order anything, then they can't force you to order anything else or leave for the next 2 hours. That kind of law is perfect for me and a huge number of Parisians, for whom a cafe is place where they feel free to do whatever they feel like.
I grew up in a family of smokers and through college and grad school, had a bunch of friends who smoked. Though I don't smoke, hanging around smokers is completely normal for me. In the US, smokers are complete outcasts, and I didn't mind accompanying smoker friends or housemates to their smoking spots to continue a conversation or just give them company and waste some time.
In Paris, I love the fact that people smoke inside cafes. Since cafes sell alcohol and tobacco, it's normal to see people show up after work (if they work!) and buy some wine/beer and cigarettes and just talk to the bartender. I guess most people have their neighbourhood cafes to hang out in and feel comfortable walking in and just talking to the bartender. There's no loud music or big screen TVs, just a lot of chatter which makes these cafes so homey.
The ban is initially for workplaces, and apparently will hit a lot of other places soon, except places which sell tobacco. I guess I'm in a minority among non-smokers, but as long as they keep a reasonable number of cafes as places for smokers, I'll keep going there. That's where one is more likely to see people sitting around nothing, which makes me very comfortable.
I should add that I leave at the end of the month, so I don't think I'll notice the effects of the ban in cafes.