Tabacs, or Tobacco Stands
This small slice of Parisian life gives insight into local culture.
A tabac is the only legal place for people over 16 to buy tobacco products in France, including Cuban cigars. But, tabacs do more than sell tobacco—they offer many services to non-smokers too.
These little kiosks, often just a counter inside a café, sell cards for parking meters (and accept parking fines), public transport tickets, phone cards, sometimes postage stamps, and the LOTO, which is extremely popular in France. Many locals will congregate here, have a chat and perhaps a coffee, if there’s a café counter. Sometimes the tabac is included in the Librarie, (book store) often near a train station, in which case, you can also buy newspapers, magazines and cards.
On Boulevard St Michel once we had a beer at a café with a tabac and watched the parade of people buying cigarettes mostly. A number of ‘dubious-looking characters’ also appeared at the window, usually begging, and it was interesting to see how expertly/professionally the tabac server and/or the café waiter dealt with these people. They were never rude, but we heard them chatting and they were always aware of the safety of their patrons (like us that evening) and the patrons’ belongings.