Image: Beachgoers
Jacques Brinon  /  AP
Beachgoers arrive Aug. 2 at La Ciotat beach, where smoking is banned, near Marseille in southern France.
updated 8/3/2011 10:40:28 AM ET 2011-08-03T14:40:28

A small town in Provence is attracting more vacationing families by turning a stretch of sun-drenched Mediterranean seafront into what it calls the first non-smoking beach in France.

The smoking ban came into effect earlier this summer, and compliance among the public at the packed beach has surprised even the city official who came up with the idea, deputy mayor for the environment, Noel Collura.

Similar limits on smoking in French cafes, bars and restaurants are gradually undoing what was once a notoriously laissez-faire attitude to smoking.

Beachcombers who arrive at the "Plage Lumiere" beach pass under a large sign reminding them that smoking is off limits, and two cigarette-shaped ashtrays attached to the sign invite them to stub out their butts before they slather on the sun cream.

"We don't stop smokers from going elsewhere, but this one we want to reserve for nonsmokers, for mothers and children so they can make sand castles and not cigarette butt castles," said Collura.

The population of the small town of La Ciotat triples in summer, as vacationers from across France join day-trippers from the nearby city of Marseille rushing to stake their parasols on the sandy crescent lapped by gentle waves and dazzling turquoise waters.

The town of 34,000 is known as the birthplace of the traditional Provencal game Petanque, and it was the location for one of the first films in cinema history, the Lumiere brothers' "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat."

Now it wants to be known for its clean and family-friendly beaches.

First no-smoking beach
Collura contends that La Ciotat is the first and so-far only no-smoking beach in France — and Europe. The only place he found with a similar law is New York City, which earlier this year banned smoking from all city parks, beaches, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas.

La Ciotat's ban was a last resort after more gentle measures failed, said Collura.

"For years we sent people around the beach passing out ashtrays, we handed out pamphlets asking people to not drop their cigarette butts on the beach, but nothing worked," Collura said.

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"We found that like anywhere else in the world, nothing will change unless there is the threat of a fine behind it," Collura said, "It's not enough just to hand out ashtrays."

Police, who already patrolled the beach before the ban, can hand out a €35 ($50) fine to anyone seen lighting up on the sand. But Collura says so far peer pressure and gentle warnings have been enough.

No-butts ban has support
A recent survey by polling agency Ifop showed three-quarters of French people support a beach smoking ban.

The nonsmoking policy only covers one part of La Ciotat's 8 miles of sea front, leaving smokers plenty of other places to go to smoke while they tan.

On a recent sunny day at La Ciotat's beach, smokers were obediently leaving the beach and taking their smoke breaks just outside the beach entrance, where a cafe has set up outdoor tables with a beach vista.

Few of the smokers complained about the new rule, like Eliane Namiach, a bathing-suited grandmother who lit up just under the beach's no-smoking sign. "It's super," said Namiach, who has made the trip from Marseille "three or four times" already since the ban took effect, each time coming to the nonsmoking beach. "Me personally, I have grandchildren, so I think it's very good. It doesn't bother me at all to leave the beach to smoke."

But there are limits to the smokers' tolerance.

"One nonsmoking beach is OK. But more than that, no," said Namiach.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A European tour

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  1. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's grand canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. (Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rome, Italy

    The Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in all of Italy, and is the largest elliptical amphitheater built in the Roman empire. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. London, England

    The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, located along the River Thames, are seen at dusk from Westminster Bridge. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Berlin, Germany

    Tourists take pictures of themselves at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in May 2005, is made up of more than 2,700 concrete steles that form a curved landscape in the heart of Germany's capital. (Barbara Sax / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra palace in Granada, although one of 21 finalists, missed out on being named one of the new seven wonders of the world. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris, France

    This bird's-eye view of Paris at dusk, with the Eiffel Tower and L'Hotel des Invalides prominent, show why the capital's nickname is the "City of Light." (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lindos, Greece

    The ancient town of Lindos is famous for its Acropolis, which stands on a 380-foot-high hill overlooking Lindos and the Aegean Sea and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Eyeswideopen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dublin, Ireland

    People walk past The Temple Bar, which should not be confused with its neighborhood, also called Temple Bar, in central Dublin. Ireland's capital has been voted one of the top 25 cities of the world to live in. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lisbon, Portugal

    Belém Tower was built in the early 16th century as a ceremonial gateway to the city, and to serve as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus River. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sebastiano Scattolin / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Barcelona, Spain

    Columns and arches of the Sagrada Familia rise high in this Roman Catholic church, which has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Florence, Italy

    A woman looks over Florence from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the city's cathedral church began in 1296 and finished in 1462. (Guido Cozzi / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. County Mayo, Ireland

    Ashford Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and sits on 350 acres of manicured gardens and land, now ranks among the finest hotels in Ireland. About a two-hour drive from Dublin, the castle has played host to myriad high-profile events, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding. (Tourism Ireland via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kaag, Netherlands

    A cyclist pedals along rows of tulips near the village of Kaag, outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Dutch often use cycling to get around, and Amsterdam is considered one of the most bike-friendly large cities in the world. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    A tourist smokes at a coffeeshop "de Dampkring," or "Atmosphere," where a part of the "Ocean's Twelve" movie was filmed, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city is famous for its nightlife, cultural activities and red-light district. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Stockholm, Sweden

    Boats line up on the shoreline in Stockholm, the capital and largest city in Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Krakow, Poland

    The Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Krakow, Poland, is one of the most well-known tourist spots in the city and noted for its gothic, medieval architecture. However, most people come to Krakow because of its proximity to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi's concentration camps, which is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. (Jon Hicks / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nice, France

    Hundreds of people enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice on the French Riviera. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels, Belgium

    The Grand Place in the heart of Old Town in Brussels, Belguim, is marked by many 17th-century buildings and flower markets. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Greek islands

    Oia, on the island of Santorini, Greece, is on a clifftop village filled with white structures and gorgeous sunsets. Santorini offers seaside tavernas, cliffside paths, black volcanic rocks and of course, sunshine and the Aegean Sea. (Saundra Virtanen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pamplona, Spain

    Revelers hold up their red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. The annual festival is best known for its daily running of the bulls. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Prague, Czech Republic

    The buildings in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are constructed in many architectural styles from Romanesque to gothic to art nouveau and modern. (Michal Cizek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tourists stand in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik, Iceland. The Blue Lagoon's waters come from natural hot water springs flowing through rocks of lava. Many also believe the mineral-rich waters may have health benefits. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. St. Petersburg, Russia

    The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is seen on the bank of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP
    Above: Slideshow (23) A European tour
  2. Image: General view of Paris
    Mike Hewitt / Getty Images
    Slideshow (25) Perfectly Paris
  3. Image: Siesta Key beach
    Chris O'Meara / AP
    Slideshow (10) Top 10 best beaches of 2011


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