Macron calls for 'a tobacco-free generation' in efforts to cut cancer deaths

French President Emmanuel Macron.
French President Emmanuel Macron. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

French President Emmanuel Macron has marked World Cancer Day by announcing a ten-year strategy to reduce deaths from the disease by 50 percent. French funding for cancer research is to be boosted by one fifth, with campaigns planned against the excessive consumption of both alcohol and tobacco


Currently, 150,000 French people die every year from cancer. President Macron wants to target the "avoidable" forms of the disease, and reduce that figure to 100,000.

On a visit to the Institut Gustave-Roussy in Villejuif, Europe's leading cancer centre in the south of Paris, he promised to expand awareness campaigns, step up cancer screening, and improve support for patients coping with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.

Cancer is the leading cause of death for French men, the second among women.

Macron stressed that tobacco is to blame for almost half of those deaths, and represents 22 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide.

He said he wanted those who will be 20-years-old in 2030 to be “the first tobacco-free generation,” saying that awareness campaigns should begin “from school age”.

The price of cigarettes and the extension of smoke-free zones are among the lines of attack proposed by the French leader.

Major funding boost

Macron has also promised to boost cancer funding by 20 percent, bringing state spending against the scourge to 1.7 billion euros over the next four years. The head of state says testing and counselling services will be extended.

The president's announcements come against a background of mounting concern that cancer patients have been left behind as governments worldwide focus on battling the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organisation said on Thursday that the Covid-19 pandemic had had a "catastrophic" impact on cancer treatment. The European branch of the agency warns that cancer services have been disrupted in a third of countries in the region.

"Some countries have experienced shortages of cancer drugs, and many have seen a significant drop in new cancer diagnoses -- even the most resource-rich countries," WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said in a statement.

Report: Cancer patients worry about effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines

Meanwhile, the European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a four-billion-euro plan to prevent, treat and research cancer in the EU as part of a bigger project for an integrated health policy.

It is "unacceptable that today we have different access to prevention programmes across the EU, different rates for early diagnosis, early detection, treatment and of course survival," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.

The plan aims to reduce smoking, alcohol consumption and pollution over the coming years and to promote a healthy lifestyle to reduce the 40 percent of cancer cases that are preventable.

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