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Edited by Catherine Hill, Agnès Laplanche. Villejuif (Paris): Published by Institut Gustave Roussy, 2004, pp 140. ISBN 2-11-005616-9.
Tobacco use in France
In this slim but ambitious volume, epidemiologists Catherine Hill and Agnès Laplanche have assembled all available French surveys on tobacco sales and consumption going back to 1860. The authors draw on data collected by three highly disparate organisations: SEITA (the government controlled conglomerate selling tobacco products and matches, now defunct after merger into the Franco-Spanish firm Altadis); the CFES (French Committee for Health Education); and INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies).
By combining such varied resources and going back over 140 years, Hill and Laplanche have managed to paint a very detailed portrait of tobacco use in a country where 66 000 people die each year from the consequences of smoking. They also highlight methodological weaknesses of certain surveys, debunk a number of myths about youth smoking, and emphasise the need for consistent terminology in defining current and former smokers.
Even for readers not comfortable in French, this is a useful text as its 120 figures, tables and survey summaries are dominated by numbers and graph points, leaving little text to decipher. Given the breadth and strength of their data, the authors might have done well to offer a little more analysis, but epidemiologists beyond France’s borders should find that Hill and Laplanche have made a very useful contribution to the literature. A series of similar volumes covering other countries’ historic surveys would make a helpful tool for a broad range of researchers.