"The number of smokers is not decreasing, it’s slightly increasing," says François Beck, an official from the French National Institut of Prevention and Health Education (INPES). "France is trailing other countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States, where the decrease in smoking is sharper," he told French daily Le Parisien.
33 percent of the French smoke cigarettes, according to a recent INPES report. Despite a ban on smoking in bars and higher taxes on cigarettes, smoking is still very popular, especially among women.
According to INPES, the number of smokers in France fell steadily between the 1970s and 2005, but has risen again since then. Public health measures - such as adding shock photos on cigarette packets - have failed to push the number of smokers in France down.
Experts say the economic crisis only encourages people to smoke more. "People on the dole are the greatest consumers of cigarettes," says Thierry Lang, an expert with the High Committee for Public Health in an interview with Le Parisien.
Anti-tabacco groups say France should act boldly against smoking by further increasing the price of cigarettes and banning branding on packaging.
In France, 73,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses.