Every third French person smokes: survey

The number of smokers in France is rising, and one in three people in France now puffs away - despite the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. 

Every third French person smokes: survey
Ta Duc

“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. 

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.