BAT France said 54.4 billion cigarettes were sold last year in France, down 2.3 per cent from 2007. In 1998, almost 85 billion cigarettes were sold in France.
BAT cited bans on smoking in bars and public places as well as high prices as factors for the decline. A ban on smoking in most public places came into force in early 2007, followed by a ban on smoking in bars and cafes at the start of last year, as part of government efforts to reduce smoking for health reasons.
The price of cigarettes, which are heavily taxed, has risen steadily in recent years. The average price of a packet was EUR 5.30 last year, up from EUR 2.96 a decade earlier.
The high prices prompt some French smokers to buy packets abroad where they are cheaper, which partly explains the sales decline. Almost one in four cigarettes smoked in France last year was bought abroad, mainly in Spain, Luxembourg and Belgium, BAT France's head of institutional relations, Yves Trevilly said.
"The French market has never been at such a low. And analysis shows that, when it comes to tobacco, what is lost is never regained," BAT said in a statement. (pi)