While Britain and France are becoming are becoming closer in social and economic terms, as far as health is concerned there is a definite air of vive la difference.

To mark 25 years of Britain's EU membership, Social Trends examined key indicators such as population numbers, age profiles, marriages, divorces, and labour market figures. But while all of these showed the two countries converging, health indicators were moving further apart.

One key difference is in premature deaths from lung cancer. In France 20 years ago, the male mortality rate was half the British rate. By 1994, the French rate was 40 per cent higher.