Only in Paris would you find a place like the Smoking Museum, devoted entirely to the art and history of that favorite Parisian pastime: smoking

It's no surprise the Gauloises-loving French have an entire museum dedicated to the science, art, culture, and history of smoking around the world.

The displays and collections range from Victorian snuff boxes and 17th century pipes (check out the surreptitious copper ones worn at the waist by Chinese dignitaries so they could smoke opium on the sly), to exhibits on hand-rolling cigars in Cuba.

There's also a "grow room" filled with all sort of plants, both of the regular and the wacky tabbacy varieties. (No, the latter is not available in the gift shop; this isn't Amsterdam, you know.)

On the French and smoking

France is a nation that truly loves its cancer sticks. About a third of the population lights up regularly, and a cigarette is as much fashion accessory and symbol of French culture as it is addictive habit.

Look at it this way: the iconic brand with the the nationalistic name Gauloises is amongst the harshest non-filtered cigs outside of the Third World (even if, as of 2005, they are no longer manufactured in France).

The French may have been among the first in Europe to put anti-smoking laws on the books, but I get the feeling they may be the last actually to start enforcing them (though in an age when the Italians, of all people, have actually already booted their puffers out onto the street to huddle in doorways, the era of smoky cafes and restaurants in Europe must really be coming to an end).

The first French smoking "ban" was instituted in 1992, but by 2004 it was safely being ignored by 84% of restaurants and nearly 100% of bars and cafes.

New, far stricter legislation was phased in over 2007, and seems actually to have taken hold a bit. Many bars and restaurants in Paris can now truly be called "smoke free" (though many Parisians continue not to be happy about it).

Outside of the major cities, though, don't expect the ban to be enforced consistently.