Interdiction de fumer : engrenage américain et humour britannique(Martine Jacot, Le Monde, 3 février 2001)
La municipalité de Friendship Heights du comté de Montgomery dans le Maryland, située tout près de Washington, a adopté en novembre un arrêté interdisant à quiconque de fumer dans les rues de son centre-ville et dans ses deux parcs. Le maire Alfred Muller, qui est aussi médecin, explique dans son bulletin de décembre qu’il s’agissait d’aborder de front ce "problème de santé publique" dans sa ville de 5 000 habitants : "Beaucoup de non-fumeurs ont des maladies des poumons, du cœur, des yeux ou de la peau qui s’aggravent lorsqu’ils inhalent de la fumée de cigarette d’un voisin sur un banc public ou dans un passage public étroit". Et de citer l’exemple récent d’une femme qui a fait « une sérieuse réaction » après avoir humé, à son corps défendant, de coupables volutes en sortant de la clinique où elle venait de se faire opérer des sinus. Plus de 4 millions de personnes, dont 400 000 Américains, meurent chaque année dans le monde à cause du tabac, souligne le maire. Les contrevenants recevront d’abord des "avertissements" de la police municipale et, en cas de récidive, seront passibles d’une amende de 100 dollars (600 francs).
Dans son édition du 13 janvier, l’hebdomadaire britannique The Economist estime que cette nouvelle "approche libérale" est source de grande inspiration. "Il est clair, par exemple, que la consommation d’aliments gras favorise les affections du cœur et autres maladies mortelles. Sans compter que les hot dogs et tous les composants de la junk food font grossir et enlaidissent. Pourquoi devrait-on tolérer cette gloutonnerie sur la voie publique ?", demande l’auteur anonyme de l’article. Les trottoirs et promenades des Etats-Unis grouillent de gens trop gros, qui se goinfrent de chips en marchant, ajoute-t-il. "Tout cela devrait cesser : il faudrait interdire de manger en public tous les aliments qui ne sont pas allégés en matières grasses, estime-t-il. Et d’ailleurs, comme les Américains ne mangent pas assez de fruits et légumes, les voies publiques devraient devenir strictement végétariennes."
Les excès américains peuvent susciter le plus féroce humour britannique : l’article poursuit entre autres sur la pollution au dioxide de carbone provoquée par la respiration des promeneurs, et sur leurs dangereuses émanations de méthane… Perfide Albion ? La commune de Friendship Heights continue d’arborer sa devise "L’amitié est le plus beau cadeau de la vie". Au-dessus de ses smoke free zones.
No smoking: American incentive and British humour
In its edition of 13 January, the British weekly The Economist reckons that this new "liberal approach" is a source of great inspiration. "It is clear, for example, that the consumption of fatty foods promotes heart troubles and other fatal illnesses. Without counting the fattening and uglifying effects of hot dogs and fast food ingredients. Why should one have to put up with this ((type of)) gluttony in public?" the anonymous writer of the article asks. American sidewalks and paths teem with obese people, pigging out on (/stuffing their faces with) potato chips as they walk along, he adds. "All that should stop: it should be forbidden to eat non-low-fat food in public," he considers. "And besides, since Americans don't eat enough fruit and vegetables, public places (/thoroughfares) should become strictly vegetarian."
American excesses can provoke the fiercest of British humour: the article goes on, among other things, about the pollution caused by walkers breathing out carbon dioxide, and exuding dangerous methane fumes. Treacherous Brits? Friendship Heights keeps its motto "The Greatest Gift in Life Is the Gift of Friendship" [voir Documentation]. Over its smoke-free zones.
Documentation (4 March 2004)"The Greatest Gift in Life Is the Gift of Friendship" is not so much a translation as a reproduction of the official motto, as found at http://users.erols.com/friendshiphtsvillage/.
This leads to the general remark that there is a choice between simply translating the text so that the target "Globe-and-Mail" reader can learn about what the French press has amusedly observed Anglos as saying on the subject on each side of the Pond, or alternatively becoming a documentalist rather than a translator and finding out what was actually written in the Friendship Heights newsletter and The Economist. The translator-documentalist may wish to compare the text of the documentation used by the writer of the French article with what was actually written in Le Monde to judge the accuracy of the selective quotations and summaries contained in the latter.
There is in fact no need to go to Friendship Heights to read back issues of the village's Council Report, no need either to go to a research library to look up back issues of The Economist. Both relevant documents are accessible on the Web, over three years after the event, although on the "hidden" Web, not the open one.
1. Friendship Heights Council Report (research by Charles Troster)The council reports archived on the Friendship Heights Village site at http://users.erols.com/friendshiphtsvillage/ only go back to January 2001. To find the Council Report of December 2000, one can go to Internet Archive at http://www.archive.org/. By entering the URL for the Friendship Heights site, one can then find the December 2000 issue of the Council Report. The mayor's letter to his constituents was as follows:
The Council ReportNews from the Friendship Heights Village Council the elected governing body of the Special Tax District of the Village of Friendship Heights. December 2000 INTERNET EDITION
An Important Public Health IssueYou have probably read or seen in the media many recent reports about the new tobacco restrictions in our Village. While most of these summaries have tried to present a balanced view, unfortunately some have failed to be factually accurate. It is therefore important that you take the time to read this Council Report and let us know if any questions remain.
Our intent is to discourage smoking in outdoor public areas, for the sake of both nonsmokers and smokers alike. During the course of the last four years we and the County Council have had public hearings, work sessions, and numerous communications — verbal, written, phone, and e-mail — from many of you and your neighbors. We have listened carefully and respect all the differing opinions expressed.
The problem is clearly a public health one: many non-smokers have medical conditions (such as lung, heart, eye, or skin problems) that are worsened by even a small amount of inhaled smoke if they sit on a public park bench or walk on a narrow public sidewalk. In order for them to have equal access and free choice to use these public areas at all times they must be kept as smoke-free as possible. Just this week one of our residents told me that she came out of a Village surgeon's office after receiving nasal/sinus surgery and developed a serious reaction after inhaling cigarette fumes from sidewalk smokers.
Please remember that the outdoor public areas were built by the Village for specific purposes: to walk, or stand, or sit. They were not built for the public to do anything they wish. For example, other county laws prohibit drinking alcohol in the parks or on the sidewalks; ballplaying, skate boards, or bicycles can be restricted. Sunbathing in the nude is not allowable (even in warm weather!)
In addition to medically challenged non-smokers, we are also concerned with the public health of smokers. It is the stated goal of this country, as enunciated by both Republican and Democratic Surgeons General, to become a tobacco "smoke-free" society. The reason is simple: more than 400,000 Americans die each year from smoke-related illnesses, the single most preventable cause of death in this country. In addition, public health officials from 150 countries, working under the auspices of the World Health Organization, are presently drafting a treaty aimed at eradicating smoking, which kills more than 4 million people annually. Our Village regulation is only one very small step, what the Surgeon General defines as "community intervention," in a much larger, global effort to eradicate a major, preventable killer. Indeed, more than 60 other American communities presently prohibit outdoor smoking in their parks, playgrounds, beaches, or sidewalks abutting public buildings. We are not alone in our efforts, no matter how some opponents may misstate the facts.
In short, our intent is not to punish smokers, but to lessen smoking.
The new regulation will apply only to outdoor areas maintained by your elected government, namely the two parks and the internal sidewalks. Wisconsin and Willard Avenues do not come under this jurisdiction. Neither do any of the outdoor sidewalk, patio, balcony, grassy or other private areas owned by office buildings, apartment houses, shops, or condominiums. Neither do cars, or other vehicles.
Initially there will be a period of public education prior to issuing any citations. While the law specifies that the first offense results only in a warning, we anticipate giving out a number of warnings as part of the education process for those who are not aware of the new regulation or have forgotten. Signs will be posted in the parks and at various other locations indicating where smoking is not permitted. Recurrent violations will be subject to a $100 fine, which it is our hope will never be required.
And, by the way, for those who feel we should just enforce the County litter law, rather than issue this new anti-smoking rule, we have learned from the County officials, through this very long public discourse, that the litter law which applies (not a Village regulation) would levy a fine up to $1000 and 30 days in jail! We feel our alternative of a warning before a maximum $100 fine, and no criminal penalty, is a definite improvement from the present situation.
Finally, as Dr. Clay Huntley, a retired public health officer and president of one of our Village civic associations testified, a major goal must be to discourage youngsters from starting or continuing this dangerous habit. If prohibiting smoking in outdoor public places prevents even a few adolescents from becoming addicted, our regulation will have been worth all the unfortunate heat it has generated.
The County Council has asked, and we completely agree, that we keep records on how this regulation has fared, and report back to them in two years with the results. In other words, it is intended as an experiment. Please join us in giving it a fair trial. We think you will be pleasantly surprised that it will harm no one and be helpful to many.
— Alfred Muller, M.D.,
2. The Economist (research by Mihaela Dumitrascu)Access to The Economist online archives is restricted to subscribers, but since institutional subscription covers all members of the institution individual access by faculty and students is free. One of the leaders in the 13 January 2001 issue of the London edition of The Economist was as follows:
...burn them.. and lots of others, too
AT THE end of last year, a town called Friendship Heights, in Maryland's Montgomery County, approved America's (and thus the world's) strictest tobacco policy. Town officers courageously banned smoking on all public property, including streets, pavements and public squares. "It's a public health issue," said the mayor, Alfred Muller, who is also a doctor. "We don't have the right to outlaw tobacco, but we're doing what we can within our rights."
This newspaper has expressed disgruntlement with the element of intolerance that is increasingly manifesting itself within America's anti-tobacco movement. It must be said, however, that doughty Friendship Heights has discovered an approach that liberals can embrace. Private property is its owners' sanctuary, but the public rules in public spaces. Undeniably, the streets belong to the government; what happens in them, therefore, is the government's business.
On this worthy principle, smoking should be merely the beginning. For example, it is clear that the consumption of fatty foods contributes to heart disease, strokes and other deadly ailments. Besides, eating junk makes you fat and ugly. What people do at home is their own affair, but why allow them to abuse the public streets for this gluttony? America's pavements and boardwalks are overridden with persons, many of them overweight, who amble along licking ice cream or gobbling chips. In many cities, hot dogs are mongered, quite openly, on the pavement itself. All this should be stopped. Not just in Friendship Heights but in other enlightened districts, it should be illegal to eat anything but low-fat foods in public zones. Because Americans consume too little by way of fruits and vegetables, in time (it is best to move slowly, because people's rights must be respected) streets should become strictly vegetarian.
More can be done. Shrieking newspaper headlines create stress for those who may not wish to view them. People who want to buy and read papers should therefore be required to do so in private. America has long and justly sought to prevent the entanglement of religion with public life. What people do in church or at home is their business. However, praying, sermonising or wearing religious garb in the streets surely compromises the requirement that the public weal not be dragooned into supporting religion.
There is the environment to consider, as well. That people exhale carbon dioxide in public places, thus contributing to global warming, is probably inevitable, and America's politicians would be wise to permit it. But methane, too, is a greenhouse gas, and an odiferous one. Its emission in public places, where it can neither be avoided nor filtered, seems an imposition on both planetary hygiene and human comfort. Breakers of wind, surely, can be required to wait until they can answer their needs in private; and prosecuted when they fail.
Kudos, then, to Friendship Heights. Other towns should take note.-If they intend to fulfil their responsibilities to the health and welfare of citizens, to public order, and above all to the public streets and parks whose rights the authorities are sworn to uphold, then the way ahead is clear.