Smoker until proven otherwise.
You can safely assume that this is the case with all Parisans.
I would say that the smoking demographic in Paris is much more varied than it is in New York. (I always compare Paris to New York, and try to forget the fact that I'm not cool enough to take permanent residence in either). Manhattan smokers mainly consist of 20-somethings, artsy/music types, young-professionals, or i-bankers who are stressed out about the size of their next bonus. But I would say that it's relative to find a 60-year old puffing away in the US.
Well that certainly isn't the case in Paris. I don't think smokers are more concentrated in one specific demographic. People of all ages and professions smoke. But why is that?
In Shanghai, about 60% of the population smokes. But I would say that the ratio of men to women smokers is about 20:1. The idea of women smoking tends to be frowned upon - but a good 85% of the male population smokes. No joke. So why are men given the choice to smoke, and not women?
I'd like to attribute the female smoking population in the US and France to effortlessly cool and undoubtedly glamourous female personas like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel. They transformed smoking from a grungy after-work habit into a sophisticated and elegant hobby. And of course, if Audrey Hepburn takes up smoking, most of the female population are soon to follow in her wake.
But that still doesn't explain the difference between US smokers and French smokers. A cigarette makes you look so damn cool.
It's true. You know it. There's something about holding that little stick that instantly ups your cool factor. Perhaps its due to figures like Andy Warhol, James Dean, and Charlotte Gaingsbourg who never seem to be without their cigarette. So, if James Dean (quite arguably one of the coolest actors ever) smokes, that means smoking is cool. Right?
I think lots of young people smoke for the image. I personally know people who smoke because they think smoking somehow identifies them as part of a certain social group (i.e. hipsters). Yeah, I know, what sad people. They don't care about the effects, the actual quality of their cigarettes, or even how expensive cigarettes are. Needless to say, the "I-smoke-therefore-I'm-cool" mentality seems rampant in the US - especially among college students.
Yet I think most smokers over 30 are somewhat embarrassed by the fact that they smoke. I mean, why else would people smoke outside their homes? They don't want their house to reek of cigarettes so when guests arrive, they won't know that a smoker resides in their house. French people are more like smoking connoisseurs
Parisians seem to be very particular about what kind of cigarettes they smoke. Muriel's friend Nicole asked if I was okay with her smoking in the living room. I thought it was a weird question as it was not my living room, and she was Muriel's guest, but it was nice of her nonetheless. I told her I was fine with it, and she proceeds to whip out a large tin box. (I was under the impression that she just carries a shoebox of cigarettes with her wherever she goes...)However inside were all the goodies and tools for rolling your own cigarette.
Mega-coolness points right there.
As she rolled her cigarette, Nicole told me that buying cigarettes wasn't worth it, you have no control over the texture, the amount of tobacco, or the quality of the tobacco. It was clearly evident to me that Nicole was a connoisseur. And she told me that almost all her friends roll their own cigarettes as well, and that the hassle was a small price to pay for the end product.
Ofcourse, I can't claim that ALL Parisian smokers are connoisseurs, but it's seems to me that there are more of them in Paris than there are in Manhattan. It's unfortunate how people really look down on smokers in the US, I don't see it being any different that appreciating wine. (and this is coming from someone who doesn't smoke)
Too much wine will kill you, likewise smoking too much will kill you as well. And I think in moderation they are both equally bad for you.
Maybe the French are just more logical when it comes to these things than Americans are.