TOBACCO prices are set to rise 6% in October as both budget and health ministries move to cut smoking with measures that include the possible introduction of generic cigarette packs without logos.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine said smoking caused 73,000 deaths a year and cost €18billion to the health budget but the confederation of tabac owners hit back saying 10,000 jobs were at risk.
Next month the owners (buralistes) will launch a protest campaign on September 6 with tabacs across the country putting a symbolic white cover on their product displays.
They are the only people allowed to sell tobacco products but customs officials said they were already losing 20% of sales to illegal distribution networks, mostly controlled by criminal gangs. In 2011 customs seizures of cigarettes rose 33% to 462 tonnes of cigarettes (worth €109m).
Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac said the price of a packet of cigarettes would rise by 6% at the beginning of October in a move that will bring in €13bn a year in tax receipts. The dearest brands, such as Marlboro and Dunhill, will rise from €6.20 to €6.50.
One in three people smoke in France - around 20million - and moves to cut the number of smokers have failed in recent years despite numbers falling in the UK and US.
The health minister will unveil her tobacco action plan in the next few weeks, which will include "dissuasive" tax measures, a generic pack to be introduced on December 1, help with the purchase of anti-smoking deviceds and an extension of no-smoking areas. Touraine said she was targeting priority populations: the young, pregnant women and the low-paid, which included the majority of smokers.
British American Tobacco spokesman Yves Trévilly told newspaper Journal du Dimanche that moves to increase prices only drove poorer smokers to the black market.