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HEALTH

€10 a pack of cigarettes: Will price hike help the French stub out their smoking habit?

The French government wants to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes to €10, but will the price rise really help the nation ditch a habit that kills 80,000 each year?

€10 a pack of cigarettes: Will price hike help the French stub out their smoking habit?
Photo: AFP

The cost of lighting up at a French sidewalk cafe may finally dissuade even the most ardent smoker, if Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe gets his way.

With 80,000 tobacco-related deaths in France each year, “doing nothing is not an option,” Philippe said Tuesday, announcing a plan to raise the price of a packet of cigarettes to 10 euros ($11.3) from the current seven euros.

Tobacco “is the leading cause of preventable death, and daily use is growing among adolescents,” the premier said in a speech to parliament.

Philippe did not give a timeline for the price hike, which he said would be accompanied by “a merciless fight against traffickers who undermine this policy.”

French smokers already pay some of the highest prices for cigarettes in the European Union, surpassed only by Britain and Ireland.

In Ireland the price of a pack was raised to €10 back in 2014.

Around 80 percent of the cost of a pack goes to the government in tax, bringing in 14 billion euros in revenue each year.

President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May, said on the campaign trail that he was open to raising the price of a packet of cigarettes to 10 euros, but he also urged neighbouring countries to follow suit to avoid smokers shopping around for deals.

Opponents of the move have already expressed concerns that the price hike will just lead to the French shopping abroad for the tobacco fix and as a result boost the black market for cigarettes.

An estimated 16 million people smoke at least occasionally in France — about one in three aged between 15 and 85.

Smoking is a factor in around 78,000 deaths in France each year – making it the leading cause of premature death in the country.

But in line with most European countries, France is less keen on lighting up than it once was. Its annual health report shows that the number of people lighting up regularly is no greater than the 2013 WHO official European average of 28%.

Gerard Audereau, president of the anti-smoking group “Droits des Non Fumeurs” (Rights of non-smokers) tells The Local previously that 47 billion cigarettes are lit up in France each year, a steep drop from the 84 billion smoked in 2001.

These statistics would suggest that France seems to have an unfair reputation as the chimney of Europe.

Yet there are some worrying trends on France notably with higher than average rates of female and younger smokers.

Whereas Britain and Germany have halved the rate of smoking for young people, France's 2011 government health report  reveals that French teens and students are still smoking at an alarming rate: 29 % of students smoke in France, a whopping 9% higher than the overall rate of smoking in the UK.

 

Last year, the government introduced neutral cigarette packets covered with graphic health warnings. But The Local reported last month how, despite the plan packaging rule, figures showed that smoking was actually on the rise.

In March alone the French bought four million packets of cigarettes, over four percent more than during the same period last year.

The government dismissed the figures however.
 
“The neutral packet is aimed at changing tobacco's image and is principally aimed at younger people. Its impact on consumption will only become apparent in the medium or long term future,” said a statement from the Health Ministry's General Directorate of Health (DGS).
 
Yet while tobacco consumption seems to be on the rise, an increasing proportion of the French intend to quit. According to the Office of Drugs and Addictions in France, sales in nicotine patches and chewing gum has increased by 29 percent since last year.

President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May, said on the campaign trail that he was open to raising the price of a packet of cigarettes to 10 euros, but he also urged neighbouring countries to follow suit to avoid smokers shopping around for deals.

Opponents of the move have already expressed concerns that the price hike will just lead to the French shopping abroad for the tobacco fix and as a result boost the black market for cigarettes.

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The French and smoking: Is France really Europe's Chimney?

The French and smoking: Is France really 'Europe's chimney'

HEALTH

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.

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