Voilà un article que j’ai fait en cours de presse écrite en anglais. C’est un portrait/profile de quelqu’un qui « make the news » donc j’ai choisi Laurence, une fumeuse en résistance contre la loi anti-tabac


« smoking ban militants… ask for a cease-fire »

Wednesday, January 29th. PARIS— »Let’s split up. We make four groups of two, go sit at different tables as if we didn’t know each other and then all light up one cigarette at 10 o’clock exactly ». Laurence is in war mode. Her hands fly around as she speaks, sometimes emphasizing a point, sometimes mechanically caressing the braids of the peruvian-style hat framing her light brown pixie haircut. All bundled up in a long down jacket, she repeats her orders before stubbing out her cigarette on the pavement in front of the MK2 café in the 19th arrondissement.

Today is the third time she’s organizing a « Happy nicotine » happening to protest against the recent smoking ban in France. She would like it « to become a national movement and spurr spontaneously like the free hugs movement », but for the moment it’s mainly her and her friends.

With a new addition to the group: Yves, better known as « jdl75 » on the internet, where he met Laurence, aka « lmd8 ». Since January 1st and the implementation of the smoking ban decree Laurence has been surfing the internet to leave posts in blogs, websites and forums of angry smokers – « and non smokers » – to try and get a resistance movement going.

But « people are so individualistic and submissive, and they have an ever-present fear of repression ». Laurence says, looking tired. She cannot understand why so many smokers and non smokers do not react to the ban. « For me, this law is heinous, it’s an outrage to freedom ». Now about to turn 40, she has been smoking since her 16th birthday. « I wanted to smoke since I was a little girl » she explains smiling. « my parents weren’t smokers, but whenever I saw people smoking I was utterly mesmerized. »

She does not wish to go back to “the way things worked before”. Instead she wants the peaceful coexistence of “places of conviviality” for smokers and non smokers. That could be done by “letting the bars decide for themselves”, or by “following the spanish example”. In Spain, choice is left to the places smaller than a 100 m² to be smoker or non smoker. Places bigger than that have to be non smoker.

A few weeks ago she was still refusing to give out her full name, fearing denunciation in the tattling section of the National Committee against smoking website. But now that the online community is trying to organize a real protest, she is ready to be one of the three persons declaring the protest to the prefecture, a mandatory move to host a protest in Paris. Even though declaring it means being hold responsible for whatever damage is done, on her personnal assets. « Sometimes I think what I’m doing is absurd because I’m an actress, and who knows what tomorrow will be made of? But it’s visceral. »

The decree made her realize how important cigarettes are in her life. « Life every day is already so difficult, we carry so much weight on our shoulders. And now I cannot even relax on the evenings? I’m banned from the society of conviviality? »

For Laurence, heated terraces are not an answer, since « your head is hot, your feet are cold and the only music you have is the sounds of cars passing by ». Whenever she has to go to a bar without a terrace, she makes sure to wear her « ruminant bell » when going out for a smoke. The big bell is attached to a large ribbon and holds a sticker advertising one of the anti smoking ban websites. « It has a lot of success! It makes people laugh and ask me questions. » It is also her way of denouncing what she feels is a lack of intimacy. She think « smokers are the new leprous. Look at us smoking outside in the cold! Look at how sick and addicted we are! »

Back in the MK2 Café at precisely 10 o’clock six people light up a cigarette in four spots of the heated yet non smoker terrace. The waitress does not even seem to spot it, but a young woman sitting next to Laurence lights up her own, asking « so this is a smoker terrace then? ». When Laurence answers negatively, the woman exclaims « But of course it is! Look around you! Everyone is smoking! »