"It's actually not a bad thing," said Corine Voinier, a Parisian taking a break with a cigarette outside her workplace, a printing shop. "It's an opportunity at least to cut down.

 

"But it's not easy just the same."

 

The French move follows bans by Ireland, Italy and Sweden.

 

The European Commission has urged all countries in the 27-member EU to introduce comprehensive bans, but how quickly the ban cuts real smoking levels remains to be seen.

 

France's affair with the cigarette is a long-standing one and its two main brands, Gauloises and Gitanes have gained a cultural status almost akin to baguettes and red wine that makes it hard to imagine a completely smoke-free France.

 

Some cafe owners who fear the end of the morning ritual of coffee and a cigarette when the prohibition is extended to bars and restaurants next year have protested.

 

Nathalie Geuhennec, Voiner's colleague, who said she had already bought a nicotine patch but forgotten to put it on, said: "In the beginning, everyone grumbles, but in the end, they wind up by accepting it."

 

Smokers can be fined $88.50 and building management fined $175 for breaking the ban. There has been no sign of any widespread revolt.

 

Miguel Balthasar, who works at the Hotel du Louvre in central Paris and who was having his first cigarette of the morning out on the pavement, said: "I don't see any problem."

 

"Most of my colleagues don't smoke, so it's only fair on them. I guess I will end up smoking less because of this law, but I won't give up altogether. Why should I?"