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France to ban buying cigarettes online

media Give up ... and if you don't give up don't buy online, is the French government's latest message Getty Images/Photodisc/Nicholas Eveleigh

In its continuing crackdown on smoking, the French government is planning to make it illegal to buy cheap cigarettes on foreign websites. Selling cigarettes online is already illegal in France but for the moment buying them is not punishable by law.

Now Budget Minister Christian Eckert says the government is ready to ban online cigarette shopping in the coming weeks and to punish the buyers.

A survey carried out by tobacco giant Philip Morris International estimates France loses around 400 million euros every year due to online foreign purchases.

Tobacconists have also demanded action on the question, arguing that their trade is being hit hard enough by the anti-smoking campaign.

Many of the websites that sell cheap cigarettes are based in Ireland, where taxes are lower than elsewhere in Europe.

The government is planning to work closely with online sellers, who are obliged to register, in order to identify buyers.

This plan to sanction online cigarette buyers follows a new health bill that aims to cut smoking rates.

It includes outlawing smoking in cars with child passengers, raising prices and banning cigarette branding.

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