Éric Sensi-Minautier, director of communications for British American Tobacco, recently expressed some highly contentious views of the French minister for Health. In his opinion, Agnès Buzyn’s actions in the fight against tobacco have no realistic effect on smoking rates in France.
For years now, the French government has been working to reduce cigarette consumption domestically. Recently, Agnès Buzyn revealed a new set of measures to help French citizens stop smoking. “Nicotine gum,” for example, has been covered by social security since March 22nd 2018, while nicotine patches were covered from May 16th. The Minister was quick to laud this allegedly revolutionary approach to help fight smoking.
Éric Sensi-Minautier quickly chimed in after the announcement. Backing up his claims with figures, he highlighted the fact that these government measures were grossly inefficient to reduce smoking rates. From 2007 to 2016, coverage for nicotine substitute products cost the government 261 millions euros while, in the same time period, smoking rates actually increased from 27% to 28,7%.
A total absence of communication on the benefits of e-cigarettes to help curb smoking rates
The irony is palpable when the spokesperson for one of the biggest cigarette manufacturers in the world is critical of the French health ministry’s initiatives to curb smoking rates. Éric Sensi-Minautier was vocal about the importance of promoting vaping as a substitute product to help quit smoking. This measure would furthermore place no additional pressure on the social security system.
Éric Sensi-Minautier mentioned the United Kingdom should be seen as an example to follow, having for years now encouraged smokers to switch to vaping. And the success rates are as clear as day, as the UK smoking rate fell from 20% to 15,8% over a six year period.