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Smoking on the rise despite five years of France's public smoking ban

media More French people smoke today than when smoking was banned in public places … GettyImages/Tim Bieber

France’s anti-smoking laws have failed to reduce the number of smokers and are often ignored but they have reduced the risk of cancer for barmen and waiters, officials announced on the fifth anniversary of the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places.

Smoking was banned in French workplaces, schools, hospitals and stations on 1 February and in bars, restaurants, casinos and discotheques 11 months later.

But it has not persuaded people to stop smoking, figures released Tuesday showed.

The proportion of 18-75-year-olds who are regular smokers has risen two points to 30 per cent since 2005. That is mainly because more women are smoking – 28.7 per cent smoked every day in 2010, compared to 26.9 per cent in 2005.

"The biggest problem with the French prohibition is the lack of control,” Maria Cardenas of France's Non-Smokers' Rights told RFI.

Two-thirds of people polled said that they had been exposed to smoking in a place where it was supposedly banned over the last six months and a third said they had come across it at work.

Smoking bans have been more effective elsewhere in Europe because it was more strictly enforced, says Cardenas. “For example, in Ireland, the ban was followed by more than 25,000 inspections in the first year. And in France, there were only 600 inspections. So there is a big difference in the political application of the smoking ban.”

But the ban has changed attitudes, she claims.

“Now, most people accept that it's not normal to be exposed to second-hand smoke in public places, and that's the most important."

There has also been a “considerable benefit” for the health of barmen and waiting staff, Bertrand Dautzenberg of the state’s tobacco control body says.

Officials are pushing for the strict enforcement of a cigarette packet with nothing visually attractive in its design to push down sales.

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