The government is claiming it as a win for their policy of escalating the price of cigarettes in increments to €10 by 2020 which they say is acting as a “deterrent” for many smokers.
In 2017, 26.9 percent of 18- to 75-year-olds smoked every day, compared to 29.4 percent a year earlier.
One of the key trends is the decline “among the most disadvantaged smokers” for “the first time since 2000,” the ministry said in a statement.
“These results are encouraging, they mark a break [with old habits],” said France's Health Minister Agnès Buzyn. “With the rise in tax [on cigarettes] we can hope that these results are sustainable.”
“Tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse,” said the minister.
Among the “most disadvantaged” people France, 34 percent smoked every day in 2017, against 38.8 percent in 2016 and among the unemployed, 43.5 percent smoked in 2017 compared to 49.7 percent in 2016.
“On top of the rise in national tax, which has already proved fruitful, we are working at the European level on a European tax framework,” said Buzyn.
“In France, I remind you, tobacco kills 200 people every day (…) We know that one in two smokers will die of tobacco,” said the minister, adding that it is necessary “to continue this major fight against one of the biggest scourges of public health.”
Cutting down on the number of smokers in France has been a key aim of the current government since it came into power last year.
In 2017, The Local reported that French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had said that with 80,000 tobacco-related deaths in France each year, “doing nothing is not an option”.
Tobacco “is the leading cause of preventable death, and daily use is growing among adolescents,” the premier said in a speech to parliament.
And in January 2017, the previous government introduced plain packaging — with its accompanying shocking photos — in the hope that it would decrease the number of French smokers.
The price of a packet of cigarettes has increased incrementally, with smokers currently paying an average of €7.90 euros, according to France's Ministry of Health.
French actress Brigitte Bardot lights up a film set, but times have changed since the heedy and very smoky 1960s. Photo: AFP