The French government recently announced plans to raise cigarette prices. A standard pack of cigarettes is expected to cost 10 Euros by 2020. This news does not however seem to be deterring French smokers. Indeed, France is the biggest tobacco consumer in Europe, after Greece, while the price of cigarettes in the country is the third highest in Europe.
This year the European commission published a Europe-wide triennial study on tobacco consumption. The results indicate the rate of smokers in France is 36%. This is the second-highest rate in Europe. It is furthermore the only other country in Western Europe, after Austria, to have a rate of smokers higher than 28%. With an average rate of 26% across Europe, Belgium, the UK, and the Netherlands are clear winners with the lowest rates, all under 20%.
Far from being discouraged by preventive anti-smoking campaigns and initiatives, the French smoking rate is increasing. Stabilised at 28% in 2012, the rate of smoking across the French population has risen to 30% in 5 years. The only other country to have seen any increase in smoking rates in the past decade is Slovenia.
Why are French smoking rates increasing?
While e-cigarette use has been growing steadily in France, tobacco consumption has not seen a proportional decline. This is in part explained by demographics. Indeed, the largest demogramic of tobacco consumers in France is the 15-24 age range. However this demographic is larger in France (12% of the population) compared to other European countries (10% in Italy and 6.5% in Germany).
Smoking is furthermore quite entrenched in French culture, and young people tend to take up the habits of their parents. France is also the European country with the smallest proportion of people who have never tried smoking at all.
It is interesting to note, however, that French smokers consume differently when compared to the rest of Europe. There are more smokers generally, however they smoke less cigarettes a day compared to the European average.