The price of some cigarettes in France dropped by one percent on 1st September, a move described by lung specialist, Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, as a marketing effort by the tobacco industry, an industry which kills half of its most faithful consumers.
"The end of the cigarette era is approaching," Dautzenberg told FranceInfo yesterday. "That's why they are fighting back."
The professor admits that the price change is purely symbolic, since some brands have seen their prices increase, the global impact being practically invisible.
But, since it will bring the price of several brands below the psychological level of 10 euros, the professor thinks it will help to boost the market for cigarettes.
Brands popular amongst he young are targeted by the new price structure.
Tobacco was a vast sector before the beginning of anti-cancer campaigns, with 84 billion cigarettes sold. That number is now down to 32 or 33 billion, which represents a huge drop.
"And," says Bertrand Dautzenberg, in twenty years there be no cigarettes at all, because nobody will want to buy them."
One French person in four is a regular smoker, but the number has recently begun to increase.
Professor Dautzenberg explains this reversal of a long-established tendency by saying the impact of Covid has been complicated.
This is not because people were more often at home and more often bored, but because they could no longer cross the border into Belgium to buy cheaper cigarettes. So, demand at French tobacco outlets increased, by as much as 15 percent in some sales points close to the north-eastern border.
Bought in France
More cigarettes were certainly bought in France during the various confinements, but the quantity of tobacco consumed appears to have remained remarkably stable.
But it's over for the tobacco industry anyway, says Dautzenberg.
"In 15 years at the outside, there will be fewer than 5 percent of smokers in the schools, exactly the case already in the United States.
"The cigarette is finished."