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Should French smokers really pay €13 a packet?

Oliver Gee · 23 Mar 2015, 16:00

Published: 23 Mar 2015 16:00 GMT+01:00

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It's no secret that smoking is bad for you, and it's pretty bad for the economy too, a new study has revealed.
The report stated that €16.3 billion is spent annually on health care for people who have fallen sick due to smoking-related illness.
A further €16 billion goes up in smoke as lost production, through businesses having to cover costs due to smokers, be it through replacing them when they're sick or hiring new staff in their place. 
The French government additionally misses out on €3.3 billion in tax revenues due to people dying prematurely from smoking related illnesses.
Researchers from economics consultant firm Microeconomix crunched the numbers and found that the "fair" price of a packet of cigarettes in France should be €13.07, an increase of 87 percent from today's average price. The current cheapest packet costs around €6.50
Before smokers start screaming about the taxes they pay on a packet, the researchers say they have taken this into account.
France earns €14 billion a year from cigarette taxes, and saves €6.6 billion in unpaid pension for smokers who died early. 
Economist Julien Gooris, one of the researchers, said the study showed tobacco is not profitable for the French economy.
He added that setting the cost of a packet of cigarettes taking into account the "social cost" would get smokers to realize how much their habit costs society, and then allow the government to come up with a "fair" price per packet. 
"Today, this price is calculated to not anger smokers or tobacco sellers, while at the same time sending a signal to the anti-tobacco associations," he told French newspaper Le Parisian.
"Our principal is based on the idea that it's the polluter who pays."
But the findings will have little sway anytime soon, with the government ruling in January that there will be no increases to the price of a cigarette packet in 2015.
Story continues below…
Just over 28 percent claim to be daily smokers (although that number is a drop on previous year's figures) , while 34 percent say they smoke "from time to time". Eighty percent say they've "experimented" with smoking before. 
In September, the government announced a raft of measures to cut French people's smoking habits back, including a ban on smoking inside cars when children under the age of 12 are present, the introduction of plain cigarette packaging, and a ban on electronic cigarettes in certain public places.
Smoking is the main cause of death in France, with 73,000 people dying each year of tobacco-related illnesses. Approximately 13 million people smoke in France every day, out of a total population of around 66 million.

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