Since the Start of Confinement, the Sale of Tobacco has Exploded in France

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People who live near countries that offer cheaper tobacco have to pay more for their packages than usual.

Since the beginning of confinement, tobacconists who are allowed to remain open, note a strong increase in the consumption of tobacco and cigarettes. Here’s why.

Do the French consume more cigarettes and tobacco since the establishment of confinement? The tobacconists have noted in recent days a very strong increase in purchases in their points of sale, authorized to remain open like supermarkets or pharmacies.

Several explanations: both the displacement of the population who left Paris and its region to go to second homes and the border closings. According to the president of the National Confederation of tobacconists, Philippe Coy, questioned on Friday 3rd April 2020, an overall increase in sales of 30% to 40% was observed at the national level in tobacco shops.

“Fewer customers but more stocks”

According to the representative of tobacconists, the points of sale note a “fall of their frequentation” but “of the customers who make stocks and buy larger volumes”.

It would be unwise to say that the French smoke more during this period of confinement. Above all, there is an increase in sales in border areas but also in the departments where second homes are located. There is a sharp drop in Île-de-France which has become depopulated due to the departures of Ile-de-France residents and the shutdown of many office districts. In certain departments, such as the North, we note a surge in sales of 100 to 150%. 

The president of the National Confederation of tobacconists notes an increase in purchases of roll-your-own tobacco or cartridges. “The French want to go out as little as possible and are getting ahead of their stocks,” he said.

An explosion of sales near the borders

According to figures communicated by the firm Seita Imperial Tobacco, the second-largest player in the sale of cigarettes in France (with brands like Brooklyn, Gauloises, etc.), “as soon as the border closings linked to the coronavirus epidemic were announced, sales of cigarettes in the tobacconist’s network have experienced an unprecedented increase. ”

For the first week of confinement, on the border with Germany, sales jumped 33.5%, 18.3% with Switzerland, and 23.4% with Italy. For the second week, this trend explodes even because of the closure of the borders between the Grand Est and its neighbours (+ 138.3% at the border or even + 72.9% at the border with Belgium). There is also this phenomenon in the border departments with Luxembourg such as the Moselle and the Meurthe-et-Moselle.

Customers wait outside a tabac shop in downtown Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), during confinement.
Customers wait outside a tabac shop in downtown Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), during confinement. (© Nicolas Zaugra / Lorraine Actu)

Sharp rise on the Atlantic coast, fall in the Paris region

In Yonne or Vendée, there is “a strong activity of tobacconists”, assures the national representative. “Departments with many second homes list tobacconists in better economic health,” according to Philippe Coy.

In Paris, in Île-de-France more generally, in most of the large metropolises but also in the tourist cities of the Côte d’Azur, the fall is more brutal with a strong drop in sales and many tobacconists closed.

85% of tobacconists still open in France

In total, in France, 85% of the tobacco shops are still open , which represents 19,000 tobacconists in activity against 4,000 who have lowered their curtains.

“The activity is difficult. The increase in tobacco is not enough and it is not the case everywhere. The sale of the press is uneven according to the regions, the games are in free fall, those having a bar activity had to close, the confectionery and the gifts sell less. There has been an increase in the purchase of leisure and children’s magazines when the confinement is announced. ”

“I smoke even more than before”

Samuel *, a seller in ready-to-wear, was placed on short-term employment a few days after the closure of the brand that employs him. Smoker for 15 years, this forty-something assures that he “smokes even more than before” . He has been to his tobacconist twice since mid-March:

“I am more anxious than before. I already smoked two packs every three days. With this context, I am more stressed, I am unemployed and I am bored at home. I have been to the tobacconist twice in the last few days and I have stocked each time. But I have the impression that it is decreasing more and more quickly. Honestly, I don’t even realize my consumption anymore. If I don’t smoke at least one an hour, I become more aggressive…”

The aggressiveness of certain customers, moreover, noticed by tobacconists. According to Philippe Coy, “this especially concerns those located near borders. They were annoyed by the high price of the packages, this showed that they had not set foot in a French tabac shop for a long time, ”remarks the representative of the profession. 

* the first name has been changed. 

The consumption of cigarettes by tobacconists explodes in border departments but also in those where second homes are located.
The consumption of cigarettes by tobacconists explodes in border departments but also in those where second homes are located. (© Illustration / Adobe)

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