FRENCH politicians are expected to call for the price of cigarettes to increase 10% a year for the next five years.
A report, to be published on March 19, by the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee, is being seen as a bid to cut the number of smokers in the country.
The price hike would put the best-selling brand at €11.27, a price the anti-smoking lobby hopes will be beyond the wallets of many current smokers.
Previous attempts to reduce the number of smokers have met with little success, even though tobacco kills 73,000 people a year in France.
“Although the price of a pack is in the range of €5 to €6.20, an increase of 25%, sales of cigarettes are still around 54 billion units”, says the report.
In February, during the presentation of the Third Cancer Plan, François Hollande had asked the health minister, Marisol Touraine, to present “a national programme to reduce smoking before the summer”.
Tobacconists argue their business is already at risk from cheap cigarettes brought into France from abroad.
Cigarette sales in 2013 fell 7.6%, an unprecedented decline since the sharp price increases of 2003 and 2004, and French tobacconists sold 47.5 billion cigarettes last year, 4 billion less than in 2012.
But the biggest threat comes from the electronic cigarette, which has bitten into the cigarette market in France, according to the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT).
Recently released figures about the tobacco market in 2013 reveal the use of the electronic cigarette also reduces the "average amount consumed by each smoker”.
In America, big tobacco firms such as Philip Morris have been quick to move into this sector to offset declining sales of traditional cigarettes.
However, the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes are still unclear.
The National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (INPE) announced in January the launch of a national survey of 15,000 people aged 15 to 75 years examining the effects of the electronic cigarette.