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Lawmakers vote to save thousands of lives each year with stringent ban on smoking: 'Stop trivializing smoking'

"Two hundred preventable tobacco-related deaths per day … is a number we should not get used to."

"Two hundred preventable tobacco-related deaths per day … is a number we should not get used to."

Photo Credit: iStock

France is banning smoking on beaches and in public parks, forests, and public spaces near schools as part of a push to help create a "tobacco-free generation by 2032," CNN reports.

According to the news outlet, the country previously announced in September that it would ban disposable e-cigarettes, which pose health risks as well as environmental concerns, as the Guardian noted. A gradual price increase on cigarettes will also go into effect.

These steps come after a unanimous vote in May 2023 by the country's National Assembly to ban smoking in and around forests during times of elevated wildfire risks.

The new regulations are a win for public health. Smoking cigarettes can lead to cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic pulmonary disease, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. France sees about 75,000 tobacco-related deaths annually, according to CNN. 

These bans are also a huge win for the environment. The flicking of cigarette butts can easily lead to fires in dry conditions. Before the smoking ban in forests kicked in, nine in 10 forest fires in France could be attributed to human activity. 

Additionally, discarded cigarettes are a danger to the environment. In fact, cigarette butts are the most abundant form of plastic waste — about 4.5 trillion of them pollute the globe, according to Earthday.org. Per this source, cigarette filters can take 10 years to completely break down, and the chemicals they release — toxins like arsenic, lead, and nicotine — can remain in nature for years. 

Even e-cigarettes are dangerous, polluting soil and water and poisoning wildlife. Vape batteries are also considered hazardous waste if not disposed of properly.

In Spain, where millions of cigarette butts are discarded each year, the government is now requiring tobacco companies to clean up the waste. The estimated annual cost of the cleanup is one billion euros annually (about $1.1 billion, as of January).

France isn't the first country to enforce stronger smoking regulations. In December 2022, New Zealand passed a law that bars anyone born after 2008 from buying tobacco products. The goal is to reduce the number of people buying tobacco each year. 

Other countries have used softer measures to decrease cigarette use like imposing higher taxes on tobacco products or requiring warning labels on packaging. 

Not everyone is happy with France's new smoking rules. 

"Lots will applaud. Not me," Cannes Mayor David Lisnard said via X, formerly known as Twitter, as reported by the Guardian. He argued that there were already enough restrictions on freedoms.

However, French health minister Aurélien Rousseau told CNN affiliate BFMTV, "What we want with this plan is to stop trivializing smoking."

He added: "The fun, leisure aspect of smoking has to go. Two hundred preventable tobacco-related deaths per day … is a number we should not get used to."

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