For members


Why the tabac is essential to life in France – even if you don’t smoke

A cornerstone of the French culture, the tabac has long been a place for more than just cigarette shopping. Paying bills, fines and even taxes are just some of the services that tobacconists offer.

Why the tabac is essential to life in France - even if you don't smoke
Photo: AFP

France’s tabac (tobacco shops) have long been a place for more than just purchasing cigarettes. Their iconic red sign, found in any French city, town and village, is associated with a place for locals to socialise over a beer or a coffee, or watch the horse racing and have a bet.

With the numbers of smokers steadily falling in France, these non-tobacco related sides of the tabac have become even more important to tabac owners. 

“We are aware that we will sell less and less tobacco in the future. This.. goes hand in hand with our change of identity,” said Gérard Vidal, President of a tobacconists federation in the Occitanie region of southern France.

The government has therefore added new services to the list of errands that can be run in a tabac.

“More than a tobacco shop, tobacconists have become local utility traders,” Vidal told French daily La Dépêche.

So what exactly can you do in a tabac in France? 

Pay your bills

Since 2020, you can pay bills for school fees, cafeteria fees, crèche (nursery) or even the hospital.

This is however only possible IF the bill has a QR code AND says that it is payable auprès d’un buraliste(can be paid to a tobacconist).

If the bill ticks both boxes, you may pay it at the tobacconist whatever the amount if you pay by card. If you pay cash the limit is €300.

Before going you should however verify that your tobacconist offers the paiement de proximité service.

You may find your nearest tobacconist providing these services here (select your département and your commune and you get a list of the different tabacs and a map showing where they are situated).

Some French people like to visit their local tabac to have a beer and watch the TV. Photo: AFP

Pay your taxes

As with bills, this new addition was added in 2020, provided the tabac offer these services and the taxes you are paying are of an amount less than €300.

The taxes included in the system are:

  • taxe d’habitation or taxe foncière (property taxes)
  • income taxes with a QR code on the bill

Pay your fines

As with your bills and taxes, you can also pay fines in a tabac. Again, this is provided that the fine has a QR code and says that it is payable auprès d’un buraliste (can be paid to a tobacconist). It also requires that the tobacconist in question features on the list providing these services (see above).

Buy train tickets

In 2019 the national rail company SNCF made it possible to buy train tickets for the high speed TGV trains and regional TER trains in a tabac.

Buy stamps

For non-smokers, buying stamps is one of the most common reasons to frequent into a tabac. Ask for un timbre, s’il vous plaît (one stamp, please) and stick it on your letter or postcard. If you want a pack of stamps the thing to ask for is un carnet de timbres, s’il vous plaît.

Place a bet

If you like to gamble, the tabac is the place to go. Whether it is to bet on the next horse race via the PMU or get a lotto ticket, you will find it here.

Get postcards

Many tabac sell postcards (and sometimes the cards are nicer than the ones sold in supermarkets and cheaper than those in tourist shops).

Buy more phone credit

If you need to top off your phone minutes you can pop by your nearest tabac to see if they sell phone credit (they usually do).

Make photocopies

A tabac is also a place to make photocopies – if they have one – and the price is usually just a few cents a page.

Get a souvenir

Some tobacconists sell local products and souvenirs, so if you’re on a trip in rural France and looking for something to bring back home, you could pop by the local tabac to see if they have anything interesting.


Finally, if you’re feeling like a snack, tobacconists sell candy bars – the carambar toffees are a classic here in France – and sometimes even patisséries like croissants and pain aux chocolats

Have a beer or a coffee

Not strictly part of the tabac service, but in many small towns there is a combined tabac/café/bar in the same building, so once you have conducted your business you can sit down and order a drink. 

Member comments

  1. The French Government has recently done its bit by severely reducing the amount of ciggies in Spain. It can be considered another unfriendly gesture to Spain.

  2. Who are you trying to kid? The TABAC is dead.
    Everything you mentioned had been replaced by an app.
    But the French still smoke more than any country in the world!

    1. Actually France at 34.6% is almost exactly in the middle of the 2021 world average of 33.3. Greece, Latvia and Bulgaria are at 38-39 %. Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Portugal are at 28-29%. Switzerland, US and Belgium at 25%. Italy, Netherlands and Ireland at 23%. Canada, Denmark and UK 18-19%. It’s still too high of course. As of 2018, 36% of french males and 33% of french females were smokers. Cost and social acceptance are the keys to reduction rates.

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For members


How the French government’s new 2024 budget will affect you

The French government presented its 2024 budget plan on Wednesday, aiming to reduce the public deficit while supporting households through the cost of living crisis. We analyse some of the announcements and how they could affect you.

How the French government's new 2024 budget will affect you

“This budget is the first step towards improving the trajectory of our public finances,” said French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, presenting the government’s new budget plan to the Council of Ministers and the press on Wednesday. 

The government hopes to reduce the public deficit to 4.4 percent of GDP next year by making €16 billion in “savings”; while simultaneously protecting households from rampant inflation. 

In theory the government can push this budget through even without the consent of the National Assembly and Senate using the controversial 49.3 tool. Ministers suggested on Wednesday they may resort to this method of bypassing parliament to get the budget through. 

Here is what the government announced and how it could affect you: 

Protecting consumers from inflation

In order to protect purchasing power amid the cost of living crisis, the government plans to spend an extra €25 billion to tie pension pay-outs and social benefit payments to inflation. State pension payments are to increase by 5.2 percent from January 1st and social benefit payments for the poorest households known as minima sociaux will increase by 4.6 percent from April 1st. 

If you receive a state pension or social security payments, this is good news for you. 

Le Maire also said that the fuel cheque recently announced by President Emmanuel Macron will be delivered to some 4.3 million people. 

READ MORE: Who could benefit from France’s planned new fuel subsidy?

The government is however set to progressively phase out price freezes on electricity by the end of 2024, which is where the bulk of the €16 billion in savings will come from. 

Income bracket changes 

The income thresholds that determine what income tax bracket you are in will increase by 4.8% at a projected cost of €6 billion to the public finances. 

This means:

  • If you earned less than €11,294 in 2023, you will pay 0 percent in income tax in 2024
  • If you earned between €11,295 and €28,797 in 2023, you will pay 11 percent in income tax in 2024
  • If you earned between €28,798 and €82,341 in 2023, you will pay 30 percent in income tax in 2024
  • If you earned between €82,343 and €177,106 in 2023, you will pay 41 percent in income tax in 2024
  • If you earned more than €177,106 in 2023, you will pay 45 percent in income tax in 2024 

Green investments 

The new budget plans include €10 billion in green financing, including an increase of €1.6 billion to finance the MaPrimeRénov’ scheme, which provides financing to make homes more energy efficient. The scheme is only partially open to second-home owners. 

READ MORE: French property renovation grants closed to second-home owners

The poorest 50 percent of households in France will also be able to benefit from a programme that leases electric cars for just €100 per month, although the process for accessing this scheme is not yet clear.

The ‘ecological bonus’ on electric cars will remain in place but the way it is calculated will change. In December the government is set to unveil a list detailing which electric cars will make buyers or long-term renters eligible to receive this grant. Currently, people buying or renting electric cars worth less than €47,000 and weighing less than 2.4 tonnes are eligible to receive the grant. 

Zero percent interest loans extended but only for certain house buyers 

The government plans to extend zero percent interest loans for people looking to get onto the housing ladder. But these loans will only be open to those looking to buy collective housing (habitat collectif) and those looking to buy in areas with a housing shortage (zones tendues). 

READ MORE How to get a mortgage in France

Le Maire said he was also open to reducing tax on furnished tourist rentals from 71 percent to 50 percent. Although this policy doesn’t feature on the budget bill, he said the government would be open to listening to suggestions on such a measure. 

New tax on airport and motorway concessions 

The government said it would introduce a new tax on airports and motorways. This eventually could result in prices being driven up for flyers and drivers if concession holders pass the costs onto consumers. 

Online consultations no longer valid for sick leave of more than three days    

In a bid to cut down on days missed at work through illness, the government is changing the rules around how to get a long arrêt de maladie – or sick note. Online consultations, known in France as téléconsultations, will now only be valid for a three-day exemption from work. Continued paid time off will require patients to visit a medical professional for a physical examination. 

The French Health Minister said money paid out to ‘sick’ workers increased by 7.7 percent from 2022 to 2023. “It is not sustainable for our social model,” he said. 

The new rules would come into effect next year. 

More than 8,000 civil servants to be employed

The total number of civil servants employed in France is set to increase by 8273 in 2024. This includes 2681 new roles with the Interior Ministry and 1961 new roles with the Justice Ministry. This could increase police presence on the street and speed up the workings of French courts. 

The budget assigned to schools will increase by €3.9 billion, which will largely go towards increasing teachers’ salaries. This could result in fewer strike days.