With smoking being the leading cause of avoidable deaths in France, the government has announced an anti-smoking plan for the next four years but is it enough to make a difference?
France will ban smoking on beaches, near public buildings like schools and in public parks and forests next year, the Minister of Health Aurélien Rousseau said on Tuesday (November 28). Meanwhile, a pack of cigarettes is set to go up to €12 in 2025, and cost €13 by 2027.
The government has launched an ambitious plan to produce the first “no-tobacco generation” by 2032, as the country currently faces 75,000 deaths per year, or 200 deaths per day, caused by smoking.
However some campaigners feel the measures are not up to the challenge. "If we start like this, we certainly will not make it!” Gérard Audureau, president of anti-smoking association Demain sera Non-Fumeur told The Huffington Post.
“The headline statements are good, but just having the ideas and actually executing them successfully are not the same thing.”
Mr Rousseau said the government wants to “denormalise” smoking in outdoor settings by making smoking-authorised areas the exception, not the rule.
Violators of the new ban could be fined but the health minister said the details of any such penalties still needed to be worked out.
These bans are a step in the right direction but they are not very clear for Mr Audureau.
“We do not really know if this will be subject to the law or if it will be an incentive as has been the case until now," he said.
“Second-hand smoke is everywhere – on the terrace of a café, in the queue at a museum, in a bus shelter. We receive daily complaints about second-hand smoking, for example.”
Focus on younger generations
The government plans to curb the habit by making it far less attractive, especially to younger people.
Although there was a clear drop in smoking in this age group between 2017 and 2022, “we need to take the next step” said Mr Rousseau.
Their aim is to ban disposable single-use vapes that are heavily marketed towards teenagers and a particular cause of concern.
Mr Rousseau said these vapes (nicknamed ‘puffs’ in France) are both a significant problem for both public health and their environmental impact.
The ban on disposable vapes will require legislation that is expected to go to parliament in December.
Scepticism of price increase
For many, increasing the price of cigarettes is believed to be the best move to reduce smoking rates. However anti-smoking groups have said that the planned price increases would not go far enough.
For example Mr Audureau said that the health minister is "bound hand and foot" by an amendment voted in 2019 that "indexed tobacco taxation to inflation".
"The first year was very good, it was a €1 increase, but then, increases of 30 or 40 cents a year are not enough at all and only benefit the tobacco manufacturer," he said.
What is needed, according to him, is first of all to remove this correlation between inflation and the price of tobacco.