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Neon tabac sign in the 14th│© Guillaume Flament
Neon tabac sign in the 14th│© Guillaume Flament
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French Smokers Complete Day 7 Of Month Without Cigarettes

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 8 November 2016
Last Wednesday, around 160,000 French people shared a crisis of anxiety. On Thursday, their anger and irritability subsided and senses of taste and smell returned. By the weekend, they were nicotine-free, breathing easier, and calmer than they had been since they quit. After a week of Moi(s) sans tabac, France’s newest drive to tackle the nation’s smoking habit, their three-minute cravings are down to just three per day. Félicitations to them!

Four weeks ago, France’s Ministry of Health designated November a tobacco-free month in an attempt to help the country’s 13 million smokers to quit. Their campaign provides registrants with encouragement and advice on giving up cigarettes. The government also extended reimbursement for nicotine patches from €50 to €150 per year for everyone.

Sunday morning on rue Tiquetonne │© Tavallai

Sunday morning on rue Tiquetonne │ ©  Tavallai

In a survey conducted for Le Parisien, 23 per cent of smokers said they were ready to quit in November. Half of those asked also believed that the campaign would be effective. It is thought that focusing on positive outcomes and enthusiastic participation rather than on negative health effects and the severity of cessation will help seduce the 60 per cent of French people who have expressed a desire to quit.

Inspiration has been taken from England’s Stoptober campaign, launched in 2012, which found that smokers were five times more likely to permanently quit if they were able to stop for 28 days. In 2015, 2.5 million English smokers attempted to quit and 20 per cent of them were successful compared to 13.6 per cent in its first year. This improvement is down to an increase in the use of e-cigarettes, nicotine replacement products, and NHS stop smoking services.

Back in France, people are more optimistic about the community quitting strategy than the plain packaging policy set to come into effect in 2017. Narrowly approved by parliament, fewer than 25 per cent of those surveyed believe the policy will be effective. For 46 per cent of people, however, an impact would be made if the price of a pack were to exceed €10.

Smoking graffiti at the Canal de l’Ourcq│© JeanneMenjoulet&Cie

Smoking graffiti at the Canal de l’Ourcq │ ©  JeanneMenjoulet&Cie

That French people are amongst the heaviest smokers in the world is a popular misconception. It was even voted the ‘smokiest’ country in the world by Tripadvisor users. In reality, France is actually 62nd in the list of cigarette consumption per capita behind its six neighbors Spain (47th), Italy (34th), Germany (33rd), Switzerland (25th), Luxembourg (8th), and Belgium (7th). While the U.K. (73rd) is a less smoky place to live, the U.S. (58th) is marginally worse than France.