The French Health Ministry said that the number of daily smokers decreased from 26.9 percent to 25.4 percent in the previous year. However, for many Parisian smokers, the rise in tobacco prices does not seem to be a serious enough reason for quitting.
"The thing is that in recent years the price of tobacco has been raised quite regularly in France, but only a small amount, for a bit. People for the most part do not quit smoking since they do not feel shaken by the increase in prices, and the state receives more taxes. I will not quit, it does not bother me very much," a young man named Clement said.
Another man named Alex pointed out that "over the past 5-6 years, tobacco prices have increased by almost 40 percent."
"Yes, many people say that this should be a reason to quit smoking, but no one thought about the people, who cannot quit due to medical problems. And this is usually the most vulnerable class: pensioners who only have a pension, but not a regular salary. People here take to the streets because it is impossible to survive off some salaries. And it is even harder for pensioners," Alex said.
The man remembered his grandfather, who smoked all his life.
"In the last few years of his life, doctors forbade him from quitting smoking because the body’s reaction to stress [from withdrawal] could have provoked a cardiac arrest. It turns out that in his case, smoking was a matter of life and death," Alex said.
Alex, himself a smoker, said that if he quit it would not be because of the price surge.
"If I want to smoke, the price increase will not stop me. It will simply increase the size of the holes in my pockets," he concluded.
A woman named Ann said how ending her own habit may be a good financial decision.
"I have been smoking for eight years. Of course, prices have increased significantly lately, by about 2 euros. And, if you do the math, quitting tobacco would bring a good amount of money to my budget. I spend about 100 euros a month on cigarettes, and this money could be spent more rationally. I think I will quit smoking soon. I once didn't smoke for half a year, but then I broke down," she shared.
A Russian woman named Diana, who has lived in Paris for many years, complained that smoking had become too expensive for people with low salaries.
"It is expensive to buy tobacco here, so I ask my acquaintances and friends from Russia to bring me a carton of cigarettes. Sometimes I buy it through social networks. There are cigarettes from Ukraine, for example, which are much cheaper than local ones. We also have tobacco black markets, but I try not to go there… It is an old habit, a part of my life. I am not ready to give it up," the woman explained.
A vendor at a Parisian tobacco shop confirmed that there was no correlation between tobacco prices going up and quitting smoking.
"It is said that at the national level tobacco consumption has lowered with a rise in prices, but, to be honest, I have not noticed this. My kiosk is located in a wealthy enough district. People here value their habits and are ready to pay for them," he said.
The vendor noted that his customers, especially those who have been coming to buy cigarettes for many years, often complained about new rounds of price hikes when they were fresh but would calm down after a few days.
According to some figures, 57 percent of smokers in France would like to quit smoking. The Tabac Info service was launched in the country to help them do so by connecting people with experts and inviting them to participate in the annual No Tobacco Month.
Last year 242,000 people in France took part in No Tobacco Month. People share their stories about how they live without cigarettes on the Tabac Info website and support those who have just kicked the habit.
"Thanks to No Tobacco Month, I gave up smoking on November 1, 2016. Since then, I have not lost it, and the very idea of having a smoke is unpleasant. If someone told me that it would be so easy, I would never have believed it," 31-year-old Aureli wrote on the website.
Gaetan, who has not had a cigarette since December 2018, said that he used to smoke a pack and a half a day and that his "health, skin, teeth, money, dignity, everything turned to smoke."
"For 25 years I was smoking a pack a day, on average. I never even thought of quitting even for a day: neither health nor children or my money, nothing could convince me. I was simply afraid that quitting will become unbearable moral and physical torture … And then I dared to do it. One of my relatives died a protracted and painful death from lung cancer. And what I can say is that those were wasted years," a woman under the alias Zaza said.
It turns out that for those who decide to quit smoking, the financial aspects do not really matter. What is most important is having a sincere desire, as without one quitting tobacco will not happen. In France, figures show that from 400,000 to 500,000 people quit smoking every year, so nothing is impossible.
World No Tobacco Day was established by the World Health Organization in 1987 to raise global awareness about tobacco use and its deadly consequences. A worldwide anti-smoking campaign is organized for this day every year to achieve this goal.
According to statistics provided by Sante Publique France, the country’s National Health Agency, tobacco is the cause of one in eight deaths in the country. In 2018, 32 percent of French people between the ages of 18 and 75 smoked if not regularly, than occasionally.
The country’s authorities are taking various measures to deal with the bad habit. For example, for two years now, all cigarettes in France have been sold in identical dark green packs, while the price of tobacco products has gone up regularly and is expected to reach 10 euros ($11.10) by 2020.