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France to ban smoking on beaches as part of 'anti-tobacco' plan

The Local France
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France to ban smoking on beaches as part of 'anti-tobacco' plan
Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

The French government has unveiled its new anti-smoking plan, which includes banning smoking on beaches and outside schools and hiking the price of cigarettes.

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France's public image is that of a smoky country and some of its biggest icons - from Serge Gainsbourg to Brigitte Bardot - are hard to picture without a cigarette in hand.

In fact, smoking rates have been steadily declining in France for decades, but the government wants to help more people to quit and has launched a four-year 'plan anti-tabac'.

READ ALSO Is France really the 'chimney' of Europe?

Announced on Tuesday by health minister Aurélien Rousseau, it includes further price hikes on cigarettes and expanding the areas where smoking is banned.

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Since 2007 smoking has been banned in indoor public spaces, including schools, public transport and restaurants and cafés - although smoking is still permitted on café terraces. This list of spaces will be expanded to include beaches, forests and the areas outside schools.

Several local authorities have already imposed a smoking ban on beaches, while many schools also have a 'no-smoking zone' outside where parents pick up and drop off children, but these will become a nationwide law in the first half of 2024. 

The plan will also include government-owned forest and green spaces - many forests in the south of France have already imposed smoking bans because of the risk of wildfires from discarded cigarettes.

"From now on, no-smoking areas will be the norm," Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau told reporters at a presentation of the government's anti-smoking programme.

He said there were already 7,200 tobacco-free areas in France but they had been mostly designated by local authorities, not the central government.

In tandem with these measures, the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes will rise to €12 in 2025 and €13 in 2026 - the average price of a packet is currently €10.50 and has seen a steady rise from just €3.20 in 2000, almost all as a result of tax increases to try and discourage smoking. 

According to the latest study by Santé publique France, published on May 31st, a quarter of French adults smoke on a daily basis. The percentage of smokers fell steadily from 30 percent in 2016 but has plateaued at 25 percent ever since the Covid pandemic, with experts suggesting that smoking was seen as a way to cope with the stressful period. 

Men remain significantly more likely to smoke than women, with 27.4 percent of men aged 18 to 75 saying they smoked daily, compared to 21.7 percent of women. 

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France's smoking rates remain higher than the EU average (18.4 percent) but lower than Europe's heaviest smokers Bulgaria (28.2 percent), Greece (27.2 percent) and Hungary (25.8 percent). 

Within France, people in the northern Hauts-de-France region are the most likely to smoke, with Parisians in the Île-de-France region the least likely to smoke.

The French government has recently banned disposable vapes, which they argue encourage children to try smoking. 

READ MORE: France to ban disposable 'puff' vapes

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