The first time I visited France, something really stood out to me. Yes, the gorgeous pastries and architecture of course, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What really struck me as odd, and a marked difference between the US and France, was the fact that everyone seemed to smoke cigarettes. Was it a coincidence? Was I just noticing the smokers? Surely French people know better, right?
Myth of the month: All French people smoke cigarettes
My husband smokes. I hate it. I hate the smell, I hate how it looks, I hate the cost, and most of all, I hate what it’s silently doing to his health with every puff. Not a single one of my friends or family members at home in the US smokes and I guess I got used to that. But in France, I don’t go a day without feeling bad about someone’s smoking habit — usually a complete stranger. Like kids on the street waiting at the bus stop just chain smoking until the bus comes.
Call me judgmental, but kids, COME ON! You have your whole life ahead of you, so just quit now! It just breaks my heart to see teenagers smoking like chimneys. I know it’s not easy to quit, but my favorite saying is “Nothing worth doing is ever easy!” People do what they want, though, and I can’t save the world. Anyway…
This is just my perception, but it seems that in the US, people know that smoking can do serious damage and therefore don’t smoke as much. In France, it almost seems cool and accepted. But plenty of Americans do smoke; I’m not denying that. I just feel like Americans are less likely to accept it.
First, let’s get the facts.
So first some facts about smoking (from the CDC):
- Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030.
- In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for about one in five deaths annually (i.e., about 443,000 deaths per year, and an estimated 49,000 of these smoking-related deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure). On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
- Percentage of U.S. adults who were current smokers in 2010: 19.3 percent of all adults (45.3 million people)
Do all French people smoke?
Facts about smoking in France:
- The proportion of 18-75-year-olds who are regular smokers has risen two points to 30 percent since 2005.
- Smoking is the number one killer of adults in France.
- 66,000 people die annually in France as a result of smoking.
- In January 1, 2008, smoking was banned in all public places.
While 30 percent is still a huge figure, it’s nowhere near “all.” It is about 10 percent higher than the rate in the US, though.
My point of view is this: Why take the risk when it’s something that’s 100 percent within your control?
There are so many things we cannot control in life, so why pay to shorten your life expectancy and open yourself up to all kinds of diseases? Not worth it.
So why do French people smoke so much? I’m putting it out there… what do you think? They just assume they’ll quit later? That cancer won’t find them? That it’s not really that bad? Do they not want to quit? I don’t think it’s because of lack of education. Maybe French people smoke because they like it. To each his (or her) own. End of story.