The French government intends to increase the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes to €10 (about $11.30) in a bid to crack down on the nation’s long-standing love affair with tobacco.
Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe is behind the move, concluding that France’s 80,000 tobacco-related deaths each year means “doing nothing is not an option,” Philippe said Tuesday.
With a pack of smokes in France currently costing 7 euros (about $8), the measure represents a price hike of 43 per cent.
In a speech to parliament, Phillippe said tobacco “is the leading cause of preventable death, and daily use is growing among adolescents.”
He did not set out a timetable for implementing the price increase but said it would be accompanied by “a merciless fight against traffickers who undermine this policy.”
French smokers already pay among the highest prices for cigarettes in the European Union, second only to Britain and Ireland.
About 80 percent of the cost of a packet goes to the government in taxes, raising 14 billion euros each year.
President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May, has already said he believes cigarettes should cost 10 euros per pack.
It is estimated that about 16 million people smoke at least occasionally in France, out of an official population of about 67 million.
What is of concern to health authorities is that more women and more younger people are apparently taking up the habit.