France advances plan to ban cigarette sales to children
PARIS (AP) -- French lawmakers on Thursday moved a step closer to banning the sale of cigarettes to children under 16 and raising the price per pack for the second time this year.
The bill on teen smoking cleared the National Assembly in a first reading. It has already passed the Senate and is expected to become law after the two houses work out compromise language in coming weeks.
``Tobacco is a public enemy. It's a matter of a fight without concessions to prevent tens of thousands of deaths,'' Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei said. ``We will act on every front to progressively rid tobacco from our society.''
Under the bill, tobacco vendors would face a fine of Ã‡150 (US$170) for selling cigarettes, tobacco or rolling paper to anyone under 16.
Lawmakers backed down from an earlier proposal to jail violators for a year, revoke their licenses and fine them Ã‡3,750 (US$4,246) for selling tobacco to underage kids.
``The war against tobacco is not against tobacco vendors,'' the minister said.
In January, the government raised cigarette taxes by 11 percent, and Mattei said sales fell nine percent in the first four months of the year. The bill would raise taxes by another three percentage points, which would be reflected in higher prices per pack. Brand-name cigarettes in France generally cost about Ã‡4 ($4.50)
The proposal is part of a larger campaign to reduce tobacco consumption by 30 percent among youngsters and by 20 percent among adults during the next five years. New enlarged warnings with ``Smoking Kills'' labels on packs are part of the campaign.
According to government figures, 40 percent of youngsters smoke regularly and 10 percent show signs of dependence.