November 2023

France’s Ministry of Health is set to embark on a comprehensive initiative to curtail smoking across the nation, with a key focus on public spaces. The ministry has disclosed plans to enforce a sweeping smoking ban in public parks, beaches, and forests. This move is part of a broader strategy aimed at mitigating the prevalence of smoking in the country. Beyond the smoking ban, the ambitious plan includes prohibitions on single-use vaping products, a gradual increase in the minimum price of a cigarette pack—12 euros by 2025 and 13 euros by 2027—and an extension of plain packaging requirements to encompass all tobacco and vaping items.

Aurélien Rousseau, the Minister of Health and Prevention, officially unveiled this multifaceted strategy on a Tuesday, articulating the government’s aspiration to cultivate a tobacco-free generation by the year 2032. While various local governments in France have already independently imposed smoking bans in public parks and on beaches, the absence of a federal prohibition has allowed for regional disparities. The last significant anti-smoking legislation in France was enacted in 2008, prohibiting smoking in enclosed public spaces such as cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, casinos, and hotels.

The implementation of fines for non-compliance with the impending smoking ban is anticipated to be disclosed in the coming year. This move aligns with the broader objective of steering the nation toward healthier practices and reducing the societal impact of smoking-related illnesses.

For aficionados of cigars, a notable aspect of the plan is the extension of plain packaging regulations. Should France extend the same packaging rules to cigars as those already enforced for cigarettes, it implies that cigars would be retailed in neutral-coloured packaging adorned with prominent health warnings replacing traditional labels. The means for consumers to identify the specific cigar being enjoyed would be limited to small text on both the packaging and the cigar band.

This potential introduction of plain packaging represents an escalation in the stringent regulations imposed by the French government on cigars. In 2017, an attempt to ban certain cigar names incorporating food-related terms, including popular brands like Café Crème, was overturned by a court. Simultaneously, France introduced plain packaging for cigarettes. Combined with high taxes and geographical factors, these stringent measures have contributed to a thriving market for illegal cigarettes, estimated to constitute 35 percent of all cigarettes sold in France in 2021, as per KPMG estimates.

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