Smokers in front of a restaurant in Montpellier

Photo: epa Guillaume Horcajuelo/ picture-alliance/ dpa

France wants to ban smoking on all beaches, in parks, forests and in front of schools. In addition, the price of a pack of cigarettes is to rise from the current eleven to 2026 euros by 13, as announced by Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau.

The sale of vape pens, disposable, flavored e-cigarettes, is also to be banned. "Tobacco-free zones should become the norm," Rousseau said at the presentation of a new plan to combat tobacco addiction.

Currently, there are already 7200 smoke-free zones in the country, which are often the result of the initiative of the municipalities. "Now we will take responsibility for it and make the exception the rule," said Rousseau on behalf of the French government.

The increase in the price of cigarettes is "the most effective remedy against tobacco," the minister stressed, referring to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO). In the coming year, the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes will rise by about 50 cents from the current eleven euros due to inflation, and in 2025 it will then be twelve euros. French President Emmanuel Macron had set the goal of reaching the first "tobacco-free generation" by 2032.

The price increase, as well as the ban on smoking in another part of public spaces, will be determined by decree at the beginning of 2024, Health Minister Rousseau said. With the extension of the smoking ban to all beaches as well as to forests and parks, many holidaymakers in France are also feeling the effects of the measure.

The end of vape pens

The ban on vape pens, on the other hand, is to be passed by law. A corresponding draft is to be debated in the National Assembly as early as next week.

The disposable e-cigarettes are "a disaster for public health and the environment," Rousseau stressed. With their fruity-sweet aromas and colourful design, e-cigarettes seduce young people in particular to consume tobacco. Refillable e-cigarettes, such as those used by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne or right-wing populist parliamentary group leader Marine Le Pen, are not affected by the ban.

"If, in a few years, the dire figure of 200 deaths a day as a result of tobacco consumption has fallen by 10, 20 or 50, then we know that it was a good decision," Rousseau stressed. After a drastic decrease in tobacco consumption between 2016 and 2019 in France, the situation has stabilized. However, there are major differences depending on the social environment.

In France, there were more than twelve million smokers who smoked cigarettes every day in 2021. This corresponds to about a quarter of 18- to 75-year-olds. Among young people, tobacco use fell from 2017 to 2021 percent between 25 and 16. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in France, with 75,000 deaths per year.