Les Fumeurs

You can’t be a non-smoker and not be shocked, saddened and sickened by the popularity of cigarettes in France. In some French minds, smoking cigarettes is one of many indicators of Gallic superiority to Americans, with their puritanically oppressive anti-smoking attitudes and regulations.

Yesterday, I was going through children’s books in a library (looking for an easy read in French on Vercingetorix) where I saw a cartoon book about some French character in which he is smoking in nearly every frame. Passengers on smoke-free buses and trains stick butts in their mouths and get lighters and vapes out as they are disembarking to save precious seconds before they can start inhaling again. On a regular basis I witness some poor shriveled soul, with barely the strength, lifting up their hand to light the cigarette dangling from their lips.

smoker, Nice, France iphone November 2018

But a new day might be on the horizon. The health authorities, if not the general medical staff population who take smoke breaks outside clinic doors so that they reek of cigarettes all day long, are on the case. November is “mois sans tabac,” or tobacco free month, a nationwide campaign for helping the French fight their addiction. It comes complete with a “get ready to quit” kit, insurance-covered cessation aids at the pharmacy, and a phone app that serves as a digital coach on going cigarette-free.

Apparently, since the annual campaign was launched a few years ago, one million French have done just that. Of course, other measures, like higher cigarette taxes, anti-smoking ad campaigns and new highly visual packaging showing grisly cancerous organs and “le tabac tue” (tobacco kills) in large print, have played a supportive role.

France, and EU member in general, have come a long way since the days when smoking was allowed everywhere — inside restaurants and bars, in doctors’ offices and airports, on any mode of transport, on any beach, park or classroom — basically wherever you liked. Several years ago, after a week of hacking and coughing my way through Paris, I couldn’t wait to get on the actual smoke-free aircraft taking me back to the US to get away from the toxic clouds of smoke in the airport. There’s a long way to go, but I can breathe more easily now.








About kmazz

I spend as much time as possible pursuing my interests in global culture, photography, arts and politics.
This entry was posted in culture, expat, expat life, France, Nice, France. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Les Fumeurs

  1. Sue Christiance says:

    I’ve always said that giving up smoking (50 years ago) was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There wasn’t a minute of any hour of any day for 6 months that I didn’t think about smoking. Only fear of having a stroke (as I witnessed my mother having – terrifying!) kept me from relapsing. My heart goes out to all the people in the world who are enslaved by this terrible addiction that is actually harder to kick than heroin.

  2. Diane Foulds says:

    Oh that photo, Kathleen. It’s a keeper!

  3. Thanks for this, Kathleen. It’s not unlike what I’ve also witnessed in Greece. I’ve had many disagreements with one of my Greek cousins about smoking in the company of others. He used to say that no one had the right to take away his right to smoke. My followup? ‘But, my dear cousin, you have no right to take away my right to be smoke free.” He no longer smokes, so the need for such discussions has passed, it seems. I wish the French better times, as well.

    Warm regards to you and David.

  4. Francesca says:

    I’m surprised that in Edinburgh so many people smoke!

    Sent from my iPhone so please excuse the brevity


  5. kmazz says:

    It’s less than in France, though.

  6. Ruth Miller says:

    The smoking problem is much better in Nice now than it was in 1989 – the first time I was in Nice. Rennes is much better than Nice (but still much worse than mot of Oregon or California). Central Paris was horrendous in 1989. It’s better than Nice today. All of France is getting better for the reasons you stated, especially the financial incentives. ” France had a million fewer daily smokers in 2017 over 2016, the health ministry said on Monday, thanking the dissuasive power of higher tobacco taxes. ” http://en.rfi.fr/france/20180529-Higher-cigarette-taxes-France-stops-one-million-people-lighting

    “The tobacco industry plays price games to make it even tougher to quit smoking
    The tobacco industry’s pricing tactics in the UK minimise the intended public health impact of tobacco tax increases.
    Tobacco companies offer a range of cheaper products to help keep people smoking (and entice new consumers to start) while also offering a suite of higher priced brands to really cash in on those unable or unwilling to quit.
    When tobacco taxes are increased, they play with their pricing to undermine the impacts of the tax increases on smoking. They absorb the tax increases, particularly on the cheapest brands, delaying and staggering the intended tobacco price rises. In this way, price increases are applied gradually to their portfolio of brands to ensure smokers never face a sudden quit-inducing price jump when the government increases taxes.
    Further tactics adopted by the industry include shrinkflation – cutting the number of cigarettes in a pack to disguise price rises and prevent the cost of a packet of tobacco being tipped over certain psychological levels.
    Reducing the number of cigarettes in a pack from 20 to 19, 18 or even 17, while keeping the price stable means the higher cost per cigarette isn’t immediately obvious to most smokers – and the producer can make greater profits.
    The industry also used price marked packaging to limit the ability of retailers to increase their small mark-up on tobacco sales as a further way of keeping tobacco cheap. Sales of ten-cigarette packs increased and very small packs of loose tobacco (10g or less) were introduced. These small packets appeal to the most price sensitive smokers as they cost less to buy.
    Such tactics and small packs have recently been banned in the UK with the introduction of standardised packaging (where tobacco has to be sold in a standardised format with drab packaging) but are still available elsewhere. The UK has also introduced a new minimum excise tax which puts the average price at over £10 for a packet of 20 cigarettes) stopping the sale of ultra cheap mainstream tobacco products.”

  7. Ian Wallace says:

    French smokers are undeniably annoying. I note that annual per capita consumption in France is 1,090, as compared to 1,017 in the USA and 1,021 in Canada. In Europe, Norway appears to have the best record (553). My own worst experience was in Tokyo; the Japanese figure is 1,583. Let’s hope the French anti-smoking campaign will yield good results.

  8. binx says:


    From one who’s not only unapologetic and puritanically oppressive, but also insensitive and judgmental about this behavior!

    from Mail for Windows 10

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