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Starbucks to smokers: Don't even take it outside!

by NBC News staff and wire reports /  / Updated 

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No more Starbucks coffee and a smoke -- even outside? The coffee chain is banning cigarettes within 25 feet of its stores, beginning Saturday.

But wait -- it's not such a sweeping prohibition as it sounds.

Don't expect to see the smoking police or company guards clearing the sidewalks of smokers. The policy only applies to seating areas and other company property around its stores, the company told NBC News.

If you can legally smoke in the streets of your city, then there's nothing Starbucks can do if you stand outside and puff away.

"If it's public space and something we do not have control of, and the law allows it (smoking) then we can't enforce it," said spokeswoman Jaime Lynn Riley.

"Different states have different laws," she said, adding that the smoking ban applies only to Starbucks-owned stores in the United States and Canada, of which there are about 7,000. The 4,000-odd shops which sell Starbucks coffee under license, will not apply the ban, however.

Riley said there was no single reason for the new outdoor smoking ban, just a "sense of responsibility" in the Seattle-based company to provide healthier spaces for customers.

The news comes as France, where many consider a coffee and a cigarette to be a healthy breakfast, will ban electronic cigarette smoking in public places.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Friday that so-called e-cigarettes faced the same fate as traditional ones: a ban on smoking in public spaces and sales to minors and a blackout on media advertising.

The near-odorless electronic alternative - battery-driven devices that allow users inhale odorless nicotine-laced vapor rather than smoke - are gaining ground in no-go zones such as bars, cafes, trains, waiting rooms and offices.

Health officials in many countries say the impact of electronic cigarettes on health needs further study. One worry they cite is that the electronic alternative will increase the general temptation to smoke.

In the United States, the number of smokers who have tried e-cigarettes doubled to one in five in 2011 and the number of all adults trying it doubled too, to 6 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No word on whether the Starbucks ban will also apply to e-cigarettes.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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