Today, approximately one third of the French population smokes. Since the 1970s, the successive governments of France led policies against tobacco consumption. Smoking is actually one of the first major causes of premature death in France and Europe. Therefore, French politicians have experimented and applied different kinds of policy measures, in order to decrease the consumption of tobacco products. Legislative and economic tools have been used in the process of reducing this major public health problem. Some of these tools will be here presented to show that the fight against smoking can take various forms.
In 1976, the “Veil Act” was promulgated and started the fight against cigarettes consumption on a legislative plan. This law prohibited tobacco companies and manufacturers from promoting their products in events aimed at minors. Furthermore, the “Veil Act” has been reinforced by the “Evin Act” in 1991. The tobacco advertising was forbidden in France by this law. Thus, the French population could not see advertising of cigarettes or other tobacco products anymore on television, radio, neither in newspapers and magazines or even during sport events. The same prohibition was applied by the “Evin Act” to alcohol as well. Advertising was targeted because obviously, this form of mass communication encourages non-smokers to start smoking. The government at that time wanted to strike the power of the tobacco industry in the media, which provide tobacco companies with a direct link to the consumer. Moreover, no sponsorship from these manufacturers was no longer authorized in France. The “Evin Act” also tried to protect the French youth from the dangers linked to cigarettes by prohibiting tobacco purchases under the age of 18. As we can see these laws were a real progress in the matter controling sales of tobacco products in France.
The “Evin Act” also impacted the places where the smokers used to smoke. Indeed, it was no longer allowed to smoke in public places for collective use, such as schools or train stations. From the beginning of 2008, this prohibition of smokig was extended to the cafés, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Thus, smoking was forbidden in all public places. This legislative measure mainly aimed for a reduction of passive smoking, which can affect the whole population, smokers and non-smokers as well. Besides, this law had consequences on smokers’s behaviours. For instance when it rains or when it is cold outside, smokers now tend to stay warm inside restaurants, instead of going out during the meal to smoke one or several cigarettes. Little by little, smokers’ habits can change because of the smoking prohibition in public places and can lead partly to a decrease of tobacco consumption.
In their fight against smoking, French politicans in charge of public health policies have targeted in the 2000s and the 2010s the appearance itself of the packet of cigarettes. In 2003, health warnings were incorporated on the packet. These messages were there to be seen by the smokers and reminding them what could be the dangers of smoking on their health. These warnings are explicit and aim at making the smokers guilty from their addiction. Furthermore, in 2011, photos of severe health consequences were displayed on the packets and had to represent at least 40 % of the back side. On every packet stands a dissuasive message and a chocking image which can disgust people from smoking. These measures should affect the smokers by making them aware about the risks and in the same time, it should prevent youth from beginning smoking. In order to reduce the attraction power of the tobacco brands on the French smokers, the neutral packet will be compulsory in 2017 in the country. No logo of the brand, nor specific color on the packet are the fundamental principle of the neutral packet. All these modifications are nudges made to prevent people from buying cigarettes. In principle, these nudges influence the consumer in his economic decisions. Here in this case, the public health authorities pointed the packaging design, in order to avoid a potential purchase of tobacco products by the French population. Howver, the nudges’ impact is limited and they must be accompanied by an specific economic policy : a sharp increase in cigarettes prices.
From the beginning of the 2000s, the packet of cigarettes experienced several price increases in France due to a strong taxation by the successive governments. Before 2000 the increases were gradual whereas in the 2000s and 2010s the goverving politicians have decided multiple times to raise more significantely the taxes on tobacco products. This policy showed good results and in the middle of the 2000s, the overall tobacco consumption sharply dropped. However, since then the statistics showed a stagnation of the tobacco comsumption, even a slight upward trend since 2012. It suggests that the increase of cigarettes prices must regularly and sharply raised to be efficient. This rate of price increase should be higher than the inflation rate in France, in order to lower cigarette consumption. Besides, the French politicians speak more and more about increasing the average price of a packet from 7 euros today to 10 euros in the coming years.
The public health policies against smoking have led a decrease the overall cigarette consumption for four decades in Europe. As we saw previously, the successive governments faced this problem on a legislative and economic scale. Furthermore, the combination of these different kinds of measures strenghtened the French health public policy against and showed encouraging results on the tobacco consumption in France. Nevertheless, these efforts should be pursued with full force to reduce the French smokers rate, which still remains above the European rate.
Josseran L. , King G. , Guilbert P. , Davis J. and Brücker J. (2005) : “Smoking by French general practitioners : behaviours, attitudes and practice”, European Journa of Public Health Vol. 15, 33-38
Tessier J-F. , René L. , Nejjari C. , Belougne D. , Moulin J. and Fréour P. (1993) : “Attitudes and opinions of French general practitioners towards tobacco”, Tobacco Control 1993, 2, 226-230
figaro.fr and Service Infographique du Figaro. “Sous la pression des prix, le marché des cigarettes continue de chuter” Le Figaro.fr. Le Figaro, 7 July 2014. Web