France's Macron aims to tackle tobacco and alcohol in 10-year cancer plan

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron wants the generation that will turn 20 in 2030 to be the first tobacco-free one, and also promised on Thursday to do more to warn about the dangers of alcohol, as part of a 10-year strategy to fight cancer.

Macron told the French Cancer National Institute - a public entity coordinating scientific research on cancer - that the government would dedicate 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion) to the cause over the next five years, a increase of 20% compared to the 2016-2021 period.

His focus on cancer, the country’s leading cause of death, comes as the coronavirus pandemic has put public health at the forefront of government policies around the world. COVID-19 has killed almost 78,000 people in France, the seventh-highest toll globally.

“This strategy is ambitious in view of the goals it pursues : to bring down, in 10 years, new avoidable cancers from 150,000 a year to less than 100,000 and to reduce the mortality of the seven most lethal cancers”, Macron said in a video speech to the institute.

He added almost half of these avoidable cancers - 70,000 - were currently due to tobacco products. In order to bring that figure down, Macron stressed cigarette prices would continue to increase and that there would be yet more smoking-free areas.

“Alcohol is responsible for one fifth of the avoidable cancers. Of course, alcohol is at the heart of our traditions, it’s not about aiming for an alcohol-free society”, Macron said.

But he added all must be done to prevent excessive alcohol consumption, including more visible and detailed information on each product, as is already the case for food products.

France is one of the world’s leading wine producers and exporters and Pernod Ricard is the world’s second-biggest spirits company behind Britain’s Diageo.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Frances Kerry