Four years to “denormalize” cigarettes and lay the foundations for a “tobacco-free generation” by 2032. The objective stated by the Minister of Health Aurélien Rousseau is ambitious, while France still has 12 million daily smokers among adults. Presented on Tuesday, November 28, the second national tobacco control program 2023-2027 – the first dated from 2018 – is based on two pillars. First, the increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, “the most effective measure against tobacco according to the WHO and all independent studies on the subject,” insisted the minister. From €11 on average today, it will increase to €12 in 2025 then €13 over the following year. Meanwhile, smokers will have to spend 40 to 50 cents more per pack from next January, due to inflation.
Another key measure: the generalization of non-smoking public spaces. Already banned in certain public places at the initiative of local authorities, cigarettes will no longer be allowed in all parks, beaches, forests, but also around schools. “It is interesting from a public health point of view, because it denormalizes tobacco and prevents non-smokers from being bothered, but also from an environmental point of view,” welcomes Amélie Eschenbrenner, spokesperson for the National Committee. against smoking (CNCT).
In France, 7.7 billion cigarette butts are thrown into public spaces each year. At the head of the Addictions France association, Bernard Basset also welcomes “a very positive step forward, even if the minister has made it clear that the prefects will be able to adapt this rule to certain local specificities”, he points out. Concerning tobacco taxation, however, the disappointment of associations and professionals is great. “For this to change something, we need sudden increases, which create astonishment,” believes Bernard Basset. For Amélie Eschenbrenner, “a real fiscal trajectory is missing. Without strong and repeated increases over time, there will be no impact on smokers,” she anticipates.
Should we see the weight of the tobacco lobbies? “Tobacco weighs on our solidarity system and costs public accounts much more than it brings in taxes,” said the minister, recalling that it represents 16.5 billion euros in health spending each year. Beyond the financial aspect, Aurélien Rousseau wants to believe that 2024, a year marked by the Olympic and Paralympic Games, will be the year of the turning point for French smokers. To help them, they would like to experiment with the systematic reimbursement of nicotine substitutes – patches, gums –, until now conditional on a prescription from a doctor.
A measure unanimously welcomed, just like the very probable ban on the “puff”, a disposable electronic cigarette popular with adolescents and targeted by a transpartisan bill which deputies will examine on December 4. The minister also promises to closely monitor other products that have recently arrived on the market, such as nicotine sachets and pearls. Flavors for electronic cigarettes will be the subject of discussions in order to limit their number and eliminate the tastes most clearly aimed at young people.
Because the challenge is above all to prevent the latter from starting smoking, they who are already starting to detach themselves from it (read the benchmarks). To continue on this path, the ministry intends to strengthen control and sanctions against tobacconists selling tobacco to minors – or two thirds of the profession, according to a CNCT investigation. “In Sweden, the public authorities have managed to increase the number of smokers to 5%, compared to 30% in France, simply by respecting the ban on sales to minors introduced in 1999,” raises Amélie Eschenbrenner, skeptical about the effectiveness of these controls but pleasantly surprised by an unexpected announcement: the implementation, from the first quarter of 2024, of neutral packaging for electronic cigarettes, based on the model of neutral cigarette packets. A sobriety that would prevent young people from being tempted. “Very few countries have done this. If France gets started, then it will be able to consider itself as a spearhead in the fight against tobacco. »