The tobacco specialist Bertrand Dautzenberg reacted on franceinfo to the drop in cigarette sales in France in 2018.
“The decrease is very strong because this time the tax increase was accompanied by other measures” estimated Thursday, January 10 on franceinfo Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, tobacco specialist in Paris and secretary general of the Alliance against tobacco. Cigarette sales in France fell sharply in 2018, with 40.23 billion cigarettes delivered to tobacconists in France, against 44.36 billion in 2017, a decrease of 9.32% in volume.
franceinfo: What explains this drop? Is it just the rise in the price of tobacco?
Bertrand Dautzenberg : The decrease is very strong because this time the tax increase was accompanied by other measures, in particular the fact that nicotine substitutes are now reimbursed, there is no longer any need to pay them when you go to the pharmacist. Above all, they appear to be effective drugs since they are reimbursed for “important medical service”, and evaluated by the health authorities. And therefore, people feel more helped to quit smoking. Vaping also plays an important role. Among young people in particular, vaping makes tobacco obsolete. But there is still a long way to go. France started from the penultimate position in smoking in Europe a few years ago.
Perhaps this also means that tobacco consumption is off the radar, along with contraband, duty-free or purchases abroad?
No, duty-free is negligible, as is contraband, around 4 to 5%, half of which is organized by the tobacco companies themselves. Cross-border shopping plays a small role, but it is about the same as during the great Chirac plan against cancer in 2002-2003 with 20-25% of cross-border purchases. We can clearly see that the rate of smokers in the border regions of Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg is higher than in the rest of France. We see for example that in Corsica, there are 30% less taxes, but there are also 30% more lung cancer. It would be better if there was a European legislation which made the same price everywhere. But increasing the prices is a benefit for everyone.
Should we then continue to increase prices? We are talking about a 10 euro package in November 2020.
It is a necessity. The 10% reduction in smokers per year is a good descent. But at the same time, if we go down too quickly, there will be well-known rebound effects, which we had already experienced during the first cancer plan: we had gone from 82 billion cigarettes to 54 billion in a year and a half, but after that there was a rebound effect, because it was no longer tolerated by society. We must progress with a French company that accepts this increase. There the increases are well accepted by smokers, non-smokers, etc. If the decrease remains at the same rate, around 10%, we must keep the planned measures, no need to take new measures.
The goal is for there to be 10% fewer cigarette sales again in 2019?
The objective is that there will soon be no more smokers in France, that the generations of smokers born after 2014 will be with less than 5% of smokers at 18 years old. We’ll get there. All the developed countries are getting there, France is a little late. But the objective of “Generation without tobacco” is quite attainable, that young people do not start to smoke. The neutral package, on this side, plays a very important role, as well as controls on advertising and promotions by tobacco companies. The good news is that the latest statistics show that there are far fewer smokers among young people, those under 24. The smoking rate of adults between the ages of 25 and 75 is also declining, but a little more slowly.
Having generations of non-smokers replacing generations of smokers is the good news. If you don’t smoke at 25, you won’t be addicted to tobacco. Smoking is a disease of adolescence, it is where the tobacco industry inoculates teenage brains with nicotine receptors and makes them dependent for life.
Is vaping a lesser evil?
It is even clearly a benefit. If we look at the statistics, vaping is directly linked to the decrease in smoking. Knowing that we are talking about controlled vaping: prohibited for minors, not everywhere, etc. But with the rules that we have in France, vaping is an ally of stopping smoking. Public Health France surveyed the French during the tobacco-free month last year. Vaping is the leading cause of smoking cessation in France today.