French people still smoke as much as ever even after one year of ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants.
Annual tobacco sales have remained steady since 2004 - when the French smoked 54 billion cigarettes - despite measures to severely penalise anyone caught lighting up in bars and certain public spaces.
Advertisement"Measures to prevent passive smoking have not had any effect on active smoking," warned the French Office for the Prevention of Smoking. "2008 will be the fourth consecutive year when smoking has not decreased in our country."
The tobacco ban has been largely respected inside French bars and bistros, which often have large crowds of smokers gathered outside in the street or huddled around heaters on street-side terraces.
Restaurateurs and bar owners, however, complain that the measure has hit their custom and could force hundreds of businesses, especially small cafes in remote villages, to close their doors.
The anti-smoking agency called on the government to increase the tax on tobacco, arguing that a 10-percent price rise could cut sales by four percent and reduce the amount spent on health care for smokers.