France is losing out on billions of tax revenue because smokers are buying their Camel cigarettes abroad, according to figures from the Observatoire des Drogues et des Toxicomanies (OFDT). The OFDT, a public body that carries out studies on smoking, estimated that in 2004-07 one in five cigarettes smoked in France came from abroad (mainly neighbouring countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and Italy).

This was because prices were so much lower they made travel costs worthwhile for regular smokers.

It was equivalent to a €2 billion loss in tax to France, the study said. However since the period studied, this may have reduced slightly owing to increases in prices abroad.

The OFDT also carried out a survey of smokers last year, in which 22 per cent said they had bought from a neighbouring country at last once or twice in the year and 2.6 per cent said they did so almost every day.

The latest OFDT figures also show that sales of tobacco rose slightly last year (by 0.5 per cent), following a two per cent rise in 2009.

This is consistent with health education body INPES’s findings that the number of smokers has risen since 2005