Prices have risen by over 70 percent in ten years, taking the price of a pack from €3.60 to €6.20 for the best-selling Marlboro brand. Only the UK, Sweden and Ireland have more expensive cigarettes. A further 6 percent rise is planned for 2012.
While the total number of cigarettes sold has fallen over the last ten years, data showed a recent rise in cigarette sales. The drug watchdog OFDT (Observatoire français des drogues et des toxicomanies) reported a 0.14 percent increase in 2010.
A report in June from two public health bodies said that the number of daily smokers has risen again in the last five years. The report found that the proportion of daily smokers went up from 28 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2010, with women showing the highest rise.
The government hopes to collect an additional €90 million ($124 million) by the end of the year in taxes as a result of the price hike.
Daily newspaper Le Parisien spoke to a number of smokers to find out how they would respond to the price rise. Most of the hardened smokers the paper spoke to said it would not affect their consumption.
"I've been smoking for 20 years and I'm not ready to stop or cut back," said Claire, 47. "I'm not sure this type of measure has an impact. It's like the shocking images that are on the packets, which make me laugh."
Brasserie owner Alain agreed. "I'll continue to smoke as much as before. If I've got lung cancer, it's already there," he said.
30-year-old Gwenaël thought she might try to cut back a bit on smoking although she was more likely to change how she responded to people who ask for cigarettes in the street. "Given the price of a pack, I'll be less generous from now on," she said.