Friday, February 16, 2007

France's Fog of Virtue

From this week's National Review:
A nationwide smoking ban went into effect in France, yet another blow to the stereotype of the French as a nation of louche but intellectual libertines, Jeanne Moreau and Alain Delon lounging in bed discussing Heidegger through a fog of cigarette smoke.

Before the health nuts tighten their grip on La Belle France to a stranglehold, though, we should like to remind everyone that the oldest person who ever lived -- at any rate, whose dates of birth and death are so chronicled that no one could doubt her age -- was a Frenchwoman, Jeanne Calment of Arles, who lives to be 122; and that Calment was -- gasp! -- a lifelong cigarette smoker.

Well, not quite lifelong: She actually quit at age 117, being then blind and too proud to ask people to light her cigarettes for her. After her 118th birthday, however, she resumed the habit. Calment died in 1997, leaving behind a faint whiff of cigarette smoke and a world from which the pleasures of tobacco are being methodically routed. God bless Calment, wherever she is, and may health nuts everywhere -- but especially in France -- choke on their own preening virtue.

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