SMOKERS face paying more than €7 for a packet of cigarettes from July 1 as prices are set to rise between €0.30 and €0.40 depending on the brand.
The most expensive brands, such as Marlboro, will go over the €7 barrier but others will be priced at €6.50.
A price rise was agreed as part of last year’s social security budget and there had been a proposal to split the increase into two – with €0.20 in July and €0.20 in October – but Health Minister Marisol Touraine decided on one big hit for the 13.4million smokers in France.
The Finance Ministry at Bercy had originally suggested the two-part rise and was in talks with tobacco manufacturers to absorb part of the increase.
However, Ms Touraine said: “I do not want cigarettes to make money for the state. Tobacco kills. This is a health issue and it’s not simply a matter of juggling taxes.”
Her decision was praised by Bertrand Dautzenberg, of the French anti-smoking group OFPT, who said that it was “real action for public health”.
Tobacco is blamed for 73,000 deaths a year and is the leading cause of cancer. Last year it killed 57,000 men and 14,000 women - but more women, especially young women, are starting smoking.
Last month Ms Touraine announced a major anti-smoking campaign aimed at young people and pregnant women to get them to give up cigarettes.
Cigarette prices have not risen since October 2012 when they went up €0.40 and official sales fell 8.6% in the first quarter of 2013.
Tobacco prices in France are among the highest in Europe, beaten only by Norway, Ireland and the UK – however, it is thought that up to 20% of tobacco is bought on the black market.
Photo: Igor Korionov - Fotolia.com