The number of daily smokers in France dropped by 1 million in 2017 compared to 2016, according to a new report from France’s health ministry. The ministry attributed the decline to various anti-smoking measures implemented in France in recent years as part of the country’s National Tobacco Reduction Plan (PNRT).
The report cites figures from a random, representative survey of 18- to 75-year-olds living in France in 2017.
According the survey, 26.9% of participants smoked every day in 2017, compared with 29.4% the year before, a difference of 2.5 percentage points. The figures equate to a decrease from 13.2 million smokers to 12.2 million over the one-year period.
Tobacco kills around 200 people in France every day and about 73,000 each year, the ministry said. Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that tobacco kills about 7 million people each year – as many as half of users.
France’s health ministry said the decline was particularly pronounced amongst teenagers and low-income smokers.
Health Minister Agnès Buzyn welcomed the decline in this income group, noting that “tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse,” BBC News reports.
The wider decline in smoking was largely due to a nicotine tax, Buzyn said. She added that state-reimbursed counselling and nicotine patches for those seeking to quit smoking, as well as changes in cigarette packaging, also contributed to the “encouraging” trend.
“This historic decline proves to everyone that it is possible to fight against smoking through coherent and integrated actions,” said Francois Bourdillon, director general of France’s ministry-run public health agency.
A packet of cigarettes in France currently costs around eight euros. Buzyn said that by 2020, she plans to increase the price to 10 euros. The price of cigarettes varies widely across the European Union – one packet ranges from under three euros in Bulgaria to over 11 euros in Norway and Iceland.
The report did not discuss whether electronic cigarettes played a role in the observed drop in smokers in France. However, Bourdillon said at a press conference, that e-cigarettes were “clearly” the most common aid used to quit smoking.
In 2017, 2.7% of people in France were daily e-cigarette users, according to the survey.
Although tobacco use is declining in many countries, others – particularly developing countries – are seeing an increase. A study published last year in the Lancet Medical Journal warned that “the smoking epidemic is being exported from the rich world to low-income and middle-income countries.”
Tobacco use is linked to numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Smoking is currently the number one risk factor for cancer.