The price of cigarettes in France looks set to rise sharply, with a 40-cents increase expected between now and October.
Tobacco companies were invited to France's finance ministry offices late on Wednesday night, according to French daily Le Figaro, where they were told to expect a 20-cents increase in the price of a packet of cigarettes on July 1st, with a similarly-sized hike to follow at the beginning of October.
Finance Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, however, has reportedly fought tooth and nail against a hike that he believes would see the French buy less cigarettes, removing a certain fiscal income to the state.
Marisol Touraine, the health minister, has impressed on her cabinet colleagues that a significant increase is one of few ways to effectively combat smoking. Le Figaro reported that the president's office eventually came to her aid.
"Last week, the Élysée ruled in favour of the health ministry," the right-leaning daily noted.
Touraine has dominated tobacco-related headlines recently as she positioned herself to ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes in public places, in accordance with an existing ban on traditional tobacco products in bars and restaurants.
A week later, the weekly Journal de Dimanche reported that the tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) had cozied up to French lawmakers at a €10,000 luncheon where frog's legs and veal were served while tobaccor policy was discussed.
JDD noted that the invite from BAT contradicted an anti-tobacco initiative from the World Health Organization (WHO), which France has signed. The accord maintains that "the state must guard against politicians being influenced by the interests of the tobacco industry".
The health minister said such hobnobbing with lobbyists should be stopped, telling JDD that "this type of practice should be behind us in the past".
BAT, which has Dunhill and Lucky Strike in its product stable, has its sights set on entering the market for electronic cigarettes – a device that creates a vapour containing nicotine.
Last week, a spokesman from London-based market intelligence firm Euromonitor International told The Local a ban on electronic cigarettes in public would be “highly damaging” to the growing electronic cigarette industry, a major rival to traditional tobacco.