PARIS (Reuters) - France will ban smoking in most public places from February 1, 2007 and in bars, restaurants, hotels and discotheques less than a year later, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Sunday.
"We have decided to ban smoking in public places from February 1, 2007," he told RTL radio and LCI television.
He added that bar-tabacs, discos and other such places would have until January 1, 2008 at the latest to comply with the rules.
Public places include stations, museums, government offices and shops but not in the streets or private places such as houses or hotel rooms.
Villepin added the state would take charge of one-third of the costs of anti-smoking treatments, such as a patch.
"That would represent the first month of treatment," he said.
In a report presented on Wednesday, several parliamentarians called for a total ban from September 1, 2007 at the latest, without exception. But a smoking ban will cause problems for the many tobacco shops in France.
Villepin declined to comment on the impact it would have on government tax revenues, saying that public health considerations outweighed any such fiscal impact.
In the report, the parliamentarians said that each year between 2,500 and 5,800 people died of the consequences of passive smoking -- inhaling the smoke of smokers. Some 66,000 smokers die each year.
Polls regularly show that a majority of French people support a ban on smoking in public places.
Weakened by a battle with trade unions and students over a controversial youth jobs contract, the government backed away in April from a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants to avoid a clash with France's many smokers and tobacconists.
Ireland imposed the world's first nationwide public smoking ban in 2004. Italy, Sweden, Scotland, Norway and Spain have followed suit to varying degrees.
Belgium, Britain, Northern Ireland and Portugal are expected to put new tighter rules in place next year.