Cigarettes to rise €1 a year to €10

Cigarette prices are set to rise €1 a packet next year and the same again in 2019 and 2020 until they hit €10.

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It follows an increase in sales of 9.2% in the first half of the year despite the introduction of non-branded packs.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said “doing nothing is not an option.”

Health Min­ister Agnès Buzyn plans a first rise next year in a bid to cut the 80,000 smoking-related deaths a year in France. She says she wants to act “quickly and strongly” with the aim of €10 packs in three years.

Packs currently average €7.

The number of smokers has been falling across Europe since 2000 – to rest at 28% of the population – but is rising in France, where a third (34.5%) of 15-75-year-olds smoke. Many of those 16million, however, say they do not smoke regularly.

Figures show 25-34 year-olds are giving up and sales of nicotine patches and gum have risen 29% but the less well-off are still taking up the habit despite the price. Anti-smoking campaigners have welcomed the government’s commitment to action but said the price rise had to be matched by extra support for people giving up, measures to ban smoking in more public areas and a plan to reduce tobacco trafficking.

Even at €10 a pack, the price will still be less than in the UK where it is the equivalent of €11.50 but many smokers buy cheaper in Germany or Belgium at €6, Italy at €5.20 or Spain at €5.

Although the launch of neutral packs seems to have been a flop, the government said it was intended to have a long-term effect and stop young people people smoking.

In addition, figures from 2016, before the neutral packs were launched, show that in the first six months of the year tobacco sales rose by 15%