Only three weeks ago, the French government said that the anti-smoking campaigns over the past few years hadn’t reduced the number of smokers, which still hovers around 30% of the population.

The conclusion was that the only way to bring the number of smokers down was to increase the price of cigarettes dramatically. Never mind that current prices are now on a par with the UK’s.

On January 7, 2013, the financial journal Les Echos reported that ‘several sources’ indicated that tobacconists’ sales decreased by 4.9%. Trebles all round, then.

But how can this be when the percentage of French smokers remains the same?

The answer is that, as RMC listeners explain in the comments, more smokers are buying cigarettes in Italy, Spain and Andorra. Others purchase via the internet. Some also know a man with a van who sells contraband.

So, a reduction in tobacconists’ sales is no time for self-congratulation on the part of anti-tobacco experts or the government. It is simply a matter of massaged statistics for a forgetful public.

Conclusion: leave the price alone. Forget plain packaging and shuttered points of sale. Smokers will continue to smoke, regardless. As for the children? Most have already been taught at home and in school to despise tobacco.

There is nothing the state can do about this overly-taxed legal product about which much bad science and egregious propaganda have emerged over the past 50 years. (For more information see the posts on my Recipes / Health page under ‘The bogus science behind Tobacco Control’, particularly the findings of Professors Even, Molimard, Davies and Grieshaber.)

Let’s not forget how much tax the price per pack generates — around 75%, possibly 80%, depending on what source one reads. Every tax-grubbing leftist should be kissing smokers; that money goes to his beloved state.

Spare a thought for the vilified tobacconists who are also viewed as poison-pushers.

Never mind corrupt politicians, higher taxes, government waste, increasing crime, mounting unemployment, broken homes and so on. And tobacco is the real social evil?

No, far from it.