One million people in France quit smoking last year

Flaky pastries, fine wine and fashionable people smoking lots of cigarettes: Fair or not, this has been a cultural image of France for decades.

But there are signs that smoking in France is losing its allure.

A new study by the French Department of Public Health has found that one million daily smokers in the country quit the habit in the last year.

Authorities attribute the drop to recent anti-smoking measures and higher taxes on cigarettes.

“This historic decline proves to everyone that it is possible to fight against smoking through coherent and integrated actions,” said François Bourdillon, the health department’s director general, in the report released Monday.

A 2.5% drop in tobacco consumption

According to the study, tobacco kills an average of 200 people in France every day — about 73,000 people per year.

In 2017, 26.9% of 18-to-75-year-olds smoked on a daily basis, down from 29.4% the year before.

That’s a drop from 13.2 million daily smokers to 12.2 million, which health officials attribute to the anti-smoking measures of their National Tobacco Reduction Plan in 2016.

Those steps included a switch to neutral packaging to make cigarette packs look less appealing and a ban on flavors and additives, which were particularly attractive to young people, the report says.

“This is the result of prevention measures that prove their worth, and good news that strengthens my commitment to the … health of all,” tweeted the Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn.

Low-income people are smoking less

The reduction of smoking is a priority in Buzyn’s prevention policy. She also attributes the lower rates of smoking to an increase in taxes on nicotine.

In March, just after prices for a pack of cigarettes increased by a full euro, sales dropped by nearly 20%.

This may help explain why the decline in smokers was particularly steep among low-income residents.

Buzyn says she plans to increase the price to 10 euros per cigarette package by 2020.

Some 1.1 billion people on the planet — about 15% of the Earth’s population — are smokers, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO says that smoking kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year.