Has France ended its love affair with smoking?

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published February 1, 2018

Key Takeaways

France is known for its iconic scenes of Parisians smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in cafés and brasseries. Have those days come to an end? The coffee and cafés remain, but the cigarettes have been disappearing in a puff of smoke.

The French have cut back on smoking by nearly 60% during the past 40 years, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), based in Paris, France. Since 1975, the amount of tobacco consumed per person in France fell from 2.49 kg to 1.02 kg in 2015.

Still, 22.4% of French adults (aged 15 years and older) were daily smokers as of 2014, according to the OECD. More men than women in France smoke daily: 25.8% of men vs 19.4% of women.

Overall, France ranks as the 12th highest country in percentage of regular smokers.

Other countries—such as Turkey, Greece, Hungary, China, and Spain—have even higher populations of daily smokers. Indonesia, where nearly 40% of adults smoke daily, ranks at the top. In the United States, by comparison, 11.4% of the population are daily smokers.

Au revoir, ma cigarette

Total tobacco sales declined 15% in France in the past decade, from 65,728 metric tons in 2006 to 55,728 metric tons in 2016, according to DGDDI, the French customs agency.

Lower rates of smoking have been attributed to laws that prohibited smoking in public places as well as increased taxes on tobacco and changes in tobacco packaging. No longer can Parisians smoke inside cafés, and all cigarette packs now come in standardized, logo-free packaging, which includes health warnings on the label.

“France is one of the slowest learners in the world on smoking,” said French health minister Agnès Buzyn. “Big price rises will be needed to have an impact on public health.”

To that end, the French government is incrementally raising the price of cigarettes through higher taxes. By 2020, one pack of cigarettes will cost €10 (about $12.50).

In addition, France began an effective stop-smoking campaign, “Moi(s) sans tabac,” in November 2016. The campaign encourages smokers, via social media coaching, to help one another to stop smoking for at least a month.

That’s not all. The health minister is now taking aim at cigarette smoking pictured in French movies.

“I don’t understand the importance of cigarettes in French cinema,” Buzyn said.

A French movie without cigarette smoking? Incroyable!

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