The huge gap between the retail price of cigarettes in France on one hand and Italy on the other has long encouraged smokers to nip across the border to pay six euros for a pack of 20 instead of 12.50 euros in France.

The allowance for those coming back from Italy has been set at 200, or 10 packs of 20, for some time.

However, the European Union is now insisting that France allow travellers to bring back four cartons, or 40 packs of 20, which is the allowance set by the EU and meant to be applied across the Union.

This would mean that a cross-border cigarette shopper can save an interesting 240 euros if he or she uses the full allowance.

Needless to say, tobacconists in France are not happy, particularly along the Riviera where Italy is just a hop away, and to help them out temporarily the French authorities have not been rushing to make the change any time soon. There is also the question of taxation, as the French state draws heavily on the tax on cigarettes, which amounts to more than 50 percent of the price.

However, when France eventually abides by EU rules on cross-border cigarette allowances smokers close to the border will be very chuffed. The good news, hold your breath, is that the change may happen as soon as March.