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MYTHBUSTER: French people smoke as heavily as ever

The French are often portrayed as heavy smokers and packets of Gauloises – strong, unfiltered cigarettes – are said to be dirt cheap here. This is false!

The country banned smoking in public places in 2006, but some still consider it a smoky destination, thanks to businesses often side-stepping regulations via indoor fumoirs and restaurant smoking terraces.

However, since the 1950s smoking has dropped considerably, though with a difference in men and women.

In the 1950s, more than 70% of men smoked regularly but only about 18% of women.

By 2000, this had dropped to about 36% of men but women had risen to a little over 20% after a dip to 10% in the 1960s.

Combined figures for French adults aged 18-75 show marked drops in recent years linked to efforts by health ministers, including a drop in regular smokers of one million in a single year from 2016 to 2017 (from 29.4% to 26.9%).

This was partly linked to higher reimbursements for nicotine substitutes.

The one-year drop was most marked among men aged 18-24, though young men are still those most likely to smoke.

Now the government has pledged to push rates below 22% by 2022. Following an EU law, cigarettes have been sold in plain packs, with off-putting imagery on them, since the start of 2017.

In the same year, France introduced plans to raise the price of a pack to €10 by 2020, among the highest on the continent.

Mois sans Tabac, which each November encourages people to give up for a month has helped.

There are regional differences and people are least likely to smoke in Ile-de-France but most likely in Hauts-de-France, Grand Est, Occitanie and Paca.

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