Smoking increases again for a third of French people

According to the latest data from Public Health France, tobacco consumption stopped decreasing in 2020. It even increased among the third of the population with the lowest incomes.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day which takes place on May 31, Public Health France (SpF) published the latest data on smoking in France. From the SpF Health Barometer, they indicate that one in four adults smoked daily in 2020. A figure comparable to that of 2019, while the proportion of smokers in the country has been steadily decreasing since 2015. And social inequalities remain marked , reveals the investigation.

33% of smokers among the less well-off

The prevalence of daily smoking has thus increased among the third of the population with the lowest incomes, from 30% to 33%. The proportion of smokers remains significantly higher among people with a lower level of education, ranging from 35.8% among people without degrees to 17.3% among those with a bachelor’s degree or more. ” In a context of unprecedented health, psychological, economic and social crisis, one of the challenges is to reinstate a downward trend, and to further strengthen the fight among the populations most vulnerable to smoking. », Comments SpF in a press release accompanying the publication of these data in the Weekly epidemiological bulletin .

Public Health France expresses the idea that these figures are linked to the social atmosphere, the yellow vests then the entry into the pandemic. For my part, I am left on my hunger », Notes Professor Amine Benyamina, head of the addictology service at Paul-Brousse hospital. “Analyzing these data in more detail is necessary if we want to be able to develop more targeted prevention policies. “ The observed phenomenon perhaps attests to a lack of effectiveness of campaigns aimed at smokers: “The most vulnerable populations remain the most affected by smoking. Are prevention messages audible by those for whom they are intended? Are the discourses developed the right ones? “, asks the doctor.

Other popular tobacco products

The health crisis is probably not to blame in this re-increase in the consumption of tobacco products among the less well-off. The increase was indeed observed from the start of 2020, so before the first SpF note containment. A pre- and post-containment analysis did not show any change in consumption in spring 2020. However, the deterioration of the socio-economic context and the prolongation of health restrictions in the second half of the year. years have not been without consequences for smoking. In a recent BVA-Addictions France study, 35% of smokers questioned declared having increased their tobacco consumption in the past few months. A figure that rose to 53% among people who consumed more than 10 cigarettes a day before the onset of the health crisis.

Health restrictions have also altered smokers’ purchasing habits. The Tobacco Dashboard of the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) reports that during the first confinement, the volumes of tobacco sold by tobacconists climbed 22% in border departments. For the year as a whole, sales in these departments increased by 0.5% while they show a slight decline (-1.6%) in the other departments of France. This figure is also well below what was observed in 2019 (-6.6%) and 2018 (9.1%). While cigarette sales were down in 2020, those of hand-rolled tobacco are on the rise again (+ 11.5%). The popularity of other tobacco products (cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff) is also booming with an increase in sales of 17.4%. ” The rather good figures obtained in France in recent years on tobacco consumption should not make us forget that during this time the tobacco industry remains very active in the marketing of other products, notably heated tobacco, of which we know yet it also has health effects », Warns Professor Benyamina.

Some smokers wave their cigarettes as a banner of freedom, even more so after months of health restrictions. “Make no mistake, addiction is by definition a loss of freedom precisely in relation to its consumption”, recalls Dr Hervé Martini, general secretary of the Addictions France association. In 2020, a third of smokers would have tried to quit for at least a week, notes the OFDT. “But if you do not want to or cannot stop smoking, it is important to remember that reducing your consumption is already an important step”, underlines Hervé Martini.

“Improving the reimbursement conditions for nicotine substitutes has been a real lever in supporting smoking cessation. We must not neglect either what a non-medicated device such as vaping can provide “, recalls Amine Benyamina. A subject of debate within the medical profession, vaping is not always offered to smokers wishing to quit. “The vapoteuse is not the panacea, but it is one more tool in the arsenal at our disposal and when it can help to reduce or stop the consumption of tobacco, we should not deprive ourselves of it”, adds Hervé Martini.


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