Anti Tobacco Laws Get Tough

Arts & Celebrities

If the government expectations come to fruition, the image of the French “bon vivant,” sitting at a cafe with a plate of good food, a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, is in the process of finally changing.

New tougher anti-tobacco measures announced by the government are intended to say “au revoir” to the national culture of chain smoking by preventing new people from taking up the habit, particularly the young, with the goal of creating a tobacco-free generation by 2032.

Although smoking has decreased in France compared to the past, the nation still counts 12 million daily smokers among the adult population, a level that hasn’t changed for several years. Its prevalence is still a culture shock for many tourists who visit the country.

According to the latest study by Public Health France published on May 31, one quarter of French adults smoke daily.

Eurostat data shows that the daily percentage of smokers in France is higher than the European Union average. Around 22% of people aged 15 and older smoke daily in the country compared to just under 20% in the E.U.

The “glamour” of smoking

French films, art works, posters and advertisement have always glamorized smoking. “French cinema is still addicted to showing smoking on screen and the practice features in nearly all the country’s films,” the BBC reported in an article citing a study by the French League Against Cancer.

“Tobacco remains quasi-ubiquitous in French films,” the League reports, adding that through 2021 “smoking gets 2.6 minutes of screen time on average per film — the equivalent of six adverts.”

“Nearly half a century since stars like Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot lit up seductively during the French New Wave, some 90% of 150 films from 2015 to 2019 surveyed by the League contained a ‘smoking event’.”

More losses than profits

A report published in August by France’s Observatory of Drugs and Addiction Trends (OFDT), “found that France lost more money to lives lost and alcohol and tobacco prevention campaigns than it gains from taxes on those products,” writes Euronews.

Tobacco smoking costs the state €156 billion in lives, loss of quality of life for patients with cancer from smoking and state spending on prevention and care, the OFDT reports.

With 75,000 deaths per year, tobacco represents the leading cause of avoidable mortality in the country.

Smoking is the main cause of premature death in the European Union and kills around 700,000 people every year.

New tough measures

The new measures by the government intend to reduce the number of smokers by expanding the list of places where lighting a cigarette is prohibited but also by continuing to increase the price of a pack of cigarettes.

Although smoking in restaurants, cafes, hospitals, public transport and schools has been barred in France for years, the list is now extended to beaches, forests and other government-owned green areas, and around schools.

“There are already 7,200 tobacco-free zones in France designated by local councils. These include woodland in southern France which are at a high risk of wildfires,” writes Euronews.

The average price of a packet of cigarettes will increase gradually. A package cost between €10-11 now and will reach €12 in 2025 and €13 in 2027.

Starting January 1, the price will rise by €0.40 to €0.50.

To prevent smokers from switching to other types of products the government plans to ban disposable electronic cigarettes, limit flavors and impose neutral packaging on vaping.

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The two new measures are the basis of a comprehensive four-year anti-tobacco plan that will be applied by decree starting in the first quarter of 2024, as announced by Aurélien Rousseau, the Minister of Health.

“The less smoking is visible, the better it will be for human health,” the president of the Association Santé Respiratoire, told Le Parisien.

For the Alliance Against Tobacco the planned rise in price is “clearly insufficient.” For them, it would take between €15 and €20 per package to really make a difference.

The new plan doesn’t include new taxes on tobacco in 2024, which for France’s national anti-smoking organization, the Comité National Contre le Tabagism “to be effective, tax increases must be strong, repeated and continuous.”

The slow increase in price “won’t change a thing,” they insist, in terms of consumption. It would take between €15 and €20 per package to really make a difference, they said.

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The rest of Europe

An Eurostat report on ‘the most and least addicted to smoking countries in Europe’ places Bulgaria at the top with 28.2% of the population consuming tobacco daily followed by Turkey with 27.3%, Greece with 27.2%, Hungary 25.8% and Latvia 24.9%.

Sweden with 9.3% appears heads the list of countries with the lowest rates of smoking. Iceland follows at 11.2%, Finland 12.5 %, Norway 12.9% and Luxembourg at 13.5%.

The World Health Organization has denounced tobacco as one of the biggest public health threats in the world, killing more than eight million people a year.


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