Smoking named as main cause of avoidable death in France
Smoking is the main cause of avoidable death in France, killing around 66,000 people each year, the health ministry said.
"On average, one regular smoker in every two dies prematurely from his or her smoking habits... Half of those who die are between 35 and 69-years-old," the ministry continued in a statement issued jointly with the National Institute of Health Education and Prevention (INPES).
Smoking causes a third of all cancers in France, according to the statement, which was posted on an Internet site set up by the ministry and the INPES as part of a national stop-smoking campaign, launched in March 2003.
Lung cancer is a particular danger among smokers and those forced to inhale their noxious fumes, including children.
In France, 90 percent of all lung cancers are caused by actually smoking and a further 5 per cent by passive smoking, the statement stressed.
There is already a law in France against smoking in workplaces, airports, metro and rail stations and in some parts of restaurants. But it is widely ignored.
The Government is reinforcing its anti-smoking campaign by increasing the price of tobacco by 8 to 10 per cent as of January 5, the third rise in the space of a year.
The main aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of smokers by 30 per cent among young people and 20 per cent among adults.
The increase in smoking among young people is of particular concern, especially given scientific information that the dangers are more widespread than originally thought.
In 2002 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organisation (WHO) based in the French city of Lyon, added the following to the long list of cancers to which smokers are vulnerable - leukaemia and cancer of the stomach, liver, uterus and kidney.
Cigarettes also cause chronic bronchitis and heart attacks, the scientists say.
The WHO itself says smoking kills 4.9 million people around the world every single year and warns that number could double by 2020.
Smoking is "the only weapon of mass destruction used against people all over the world," commented John Seffrin, president of the American Cancer Society, during the world cancer congress in Chicago in May 2003.